U.N. Coordinator Mulls Avian Flu Threat

Oct.1, 2005 — -- The newly appointed United Nations coordinator for avian influenza, Dr. David Nabarro, said the avian flu is likely to be the virus of the next flu pandemic.

"Every 30 years, we do get massive pandemics of human influenza, a dangerous flu that affects humans all over the world," Nabarro said.

"It's likely that the next pandemic will be caused by a version of bird flu," he added, "and the current bird flu epidemic in Asia has a candidate virus we're worried will jump into the human population."

Nabarro said there's no need for individuals to start stockpiling Tamiflu, a medicine that seems effective in treating flu victims in Asia.

"What we need to do is make sure there's enough anti-viral drugs and other techniques available to deal with the parts of the world first affected by the flu," he said. "For individuals, stockpiling may not be the correct answer."

"The requirement is for countries to have their own stock so they can deal with their affected population," he added.

Nabarro has said the death toll from an avian flu pandemic would be between 5 million and 150 million.

"The huge disparity in numbers exists because previous pandemics have caused a very large range in numbers of deaths," Nabarro said. "The low figure reflects the death rate from some of the more recent pandemics. The high figure is an extrapolation from the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which killed millions."

Subsequent flu pandemics in 1957 and 1968 also killed in large numbers, but were not as deadly as the Spanish flu.