The new director-general of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan, warns the threat of an influenza pandemic has not receded. She urges countries around the world to prepare for a pandemic that has the potential to kill millions.
Margaret Chan, a bird flu expert from Hong Kong, is the first Chinese citizen to become the head of a UN agency – WHO. She said reports of bird flu had started to surface in recent weeks after a lull and that the danger was particularly severe in poor countries. Dr Chan also identified health care in Africa, particularly women”s health, as a priority for her organization.
With the flu spreading around the world, the virus has turned up in birds in Asia and Europe, and, most recently, Africa. So far, bird flu has mostly been passed from birds either to other birds or, in isolated cases, to humans. In June_2006, WHO reported the first case of human transference of the disease, when an Indonesian man died after catching the flu from his 10-year-old son. If the flu mutates into a strain that can pass more readily from human to human, people will have no immunity and the flu will probably pass rapidly from person to person, creating a pandemic. Flu vaccines can only be made to protect against a particular virus, and, since the virus had yet to be passed from human to human, no vaccine has been developed.