Wednesday, March 02, 2005

World is not ready for a flu pandemic

The world is poorly prepared for a future influenza pandemic, with only a dozen countries purchasing significant quantities of antiviral drugs and just 50 with contingency plans on how to cope with such an outbreak.

A Financial Times analysis on the eve of a World Health Organisation meeting on preparing for a pandemic shows widely differing approaches between countries that already have plans, and a sharp divide between richer countries and many poorer nations, creating splits that could hinder efforts to curb disease.

The analysis comes as concern rises about the likelihood of a pandemic linked to widespread outbreaks of bird flu in south east Asia, which have killed at least 42 people.

The WHO, which meets in Luxembourg on Wednesday with 52 countries from the European region, estimates that up to 8m people could be killed and 30m could be hospitalised by a pandemic.

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