Health experts are meeting in Geneva over the next three days to put together a global strategy to halt the spread of bird flu and prevent it turning into a human pandemic.
The virus can be passed on through human contact with birds but is difficult to catch. Officials say it must be contained in poultry to prevent it spreading to humans. The HN51 virus has been been detected in birds in eastern europe and experts predict it could soon reach the Middle East and Africa, where living conditions mean it could spread unchecked. In Asia, 63 people are known to have died in four countries. A total of 150 million birds have been culled worldwide so far.An integrated global programme would mean health and veterinary officials drawing up sweeping plans to halt the spread of the disease and deal with any outbreaks which occur. A spokesman for the United Nations has also said that, as part of the plan, the World Bank may set up a fund to help countries and agencies respond to the crisis. Initial donations of over 400 million euros would be needed to help countries set up programmes.