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Project to Help Prepare for Flu Pandemics
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A multimillion-dollar health project was launched yesterday in Beijing to aid China's capacity building for dealing with highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) and human flu pandemics.


The two-year project, funded by the World Bank's Avian and Human Influenza Facility, will be led by the ministries of Agriculture and Health to optimize a national HPAI prevention and control strategy and enhance the human flu pandemic response capacity in the project provinces of Liaoning and Anhui.


Li Jianguo, deputy director-general with the office of emergency under the Ministry of Health (MOH), said at the launch ceremony that nearly half the $2.65-million will be spent on staff training and related activities in 10 counties within the two provinces.


"Through collaboration between the MOH and the Ministry of Agriculture, the veterinary and human health services at the grassroots level, which are in need of urgent development, will be substantially improved to better handle potential HPAI and human influenza pandemic outbreaks," Li told China Daily.


China faces great risk from the two diseases because of its massive human population and the fact that it is home to 25 percent of the world's chickens, 87 percent of its geese, and 65 percent of its ducks, most of which live on backyard farms.


Liu Xiaoyun, a World Bank representative, said at the launch: "The project will strengthen the detecting, diagnosing and reporting capacity of agriculture and health departments in the selected counties.


"Useful experiences gained from the project will be shared with other counties in the country and worldwide."


Also high on the project's agenda is the establishment of a track record of credibility through the honest, accurate and timely disclosure of information about outbreaks to the people of China and the world, Liu said.


By improving its capacity for early warning and surveillance, and for rapid response to the two infectious diseases, China will make a valuable contribution to global efforts to fight HPAI and human flu pandemics, Liu said.


Many experts on infectious diseases believe that a human flu pandemic is inevitable, and could result in a loss of more than 5 percent of world GDP, some $2 trillion per year.


As for bird flu, 58 countries have reported cases of H5N1 infections, 20 of them in 2007.


(China Daily April 27, 2007)


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