TOKYO (AP): Some Asian countries have yet to devise a plan on how to respond to a bird flu outbreak, a disease that continues to be a threat for the whole region, a World Health Organization health official warned Saturday.
Preparedness in some Asian developing countries remains inadequate, said Dr. Shigeru Omi, western Pacific director of the World Health Organization.
"There have been outbreaks of bird flu among birds in many countries. It's not something you can just pick up on one country as being threatened," Omi said in an interview with The Associated Press.
It was important for countries to improve the quality of sanitation for the general public and livestock, as well as to report incidents to authorities promptly, Omi said.
Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Singapore were ready to tackle outbreaks, but preparations were inadequate elsewhere, Omi said. He declined to identify where.
Governments also need to address how to compensate farmers whose livestock has been hit by an outbreak, he said.
The H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed or led to the slaughter of millions of birds in recent years. It remains difficult for humans to catch, but has killed at least 206 people worldwide since late 2003, according to the WHO.
Most human cases of H5N1 have so far been traced to contact with infected birds, but experts fear that the strain could mutate into a form that spreads easily between people and trigger a global flu pandemic.
Omi was in Tokyo to launch a health initiative to overhaul health systems in the Asia-Pacific region.