2006-01-13-Education vital to halt bird flu-UNICEFUnderstanding Avian Influenza
2006-01-13-Education vital to halt bird flu-UNICEF
TOKYO (AFP) - Educating far-flung rural communities about the dangers of bird flu will be crucial as the world tries to prevent the start of a deadly pandemic, a UN expert said.
Officials from 21 countries and organizations are meeting in Tokyo to chart out ways to prevent massive death if and when avian influenza mutates into a form that can be transmitted from human to human.
The conference came as Turkey announced its third bird flu death and two new cases of human infection, and Indonesia reported another death.
A representative of the United Nations Children's Fund ( UNICEF) said health workers needed to reach the most isolated villages, where people are often in contact with wildlife and unaware that sick birds can spread the virus.
"Communication is very, very important," UNICEF delegate Susan MacKay told the Tokyo conference on its second and final day.
"The containment response must be preceded by sensitization and awareness" of the risks of bird flu, she said.
She showed the conference pictures of a laptop computer and printer in a village, saying that UNICEF was bringing the technology to areas in Southeast Asia affected by bird flu to offer the latest information.
MacKay said that the campaign against bird flu needed to help governments learn how to communicate during an outbreak, but also encourage "behavioral change" in the way communities work to prevent bird flu.
Turkish Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker on Thursday said that letting poultry run wild in rural areas and city outskirts had caused the spread of the virus to nearly a third of the country's 81 provinces.
Turkey is the first country outside of Asia to report human deaths from bird flu, which has killed nearly 80 people in Southeast Asia and China since 2003.
Conference host Japan last month promised Southeast Asian nations 135 million dollars in aid to fight the spread of bird flu.
The Asian Development Bank, which also has a delegate at the Tokyo meeting, predicted in a November report that a prolonged bird flu outbreak could force the world into recession and cost Asia around 283 billion dollar.