WHO warns against panic over bird flu

news: WHO warns against panic over bird flu

THE WORLD Health Organisation (WHO) has warned people against panic buying stocks of a drug they hope will protect them against bird flu. The WHO stressed that Tamiflu could reduce the effect of the illness but was not a vaccine to prevent it. The organisation wants governments to stockpile Tamiflu, but fears a public run on the drug.

Meanwhile, bird flu’s spread across Europe continued with confirmation that it had reached Greece. The authorities in Romania – where a number of birds have tested positive for the disease – also announced on Tuesday that they had found swans with suspected bird flu near the Ukrainian border.

Scientists have warned that a strain of the disease deadly to humans could cause a lethal pandemic if it mutates into a form that can be spread from person to person. The H5N1 strain has killed more than 60 people in South East Asia since 2003. However, only one person is suspected to have died after catching the virus from another human, and experts stress the risk is low.

Following reports that European pharmacists were selling out of Tamiflu, the WHO’s pandemic alert chief Michael Ryan said: “WHO at this point does not advise individuals to stockpile this drug for any purpose. There is no indication at this stage for anyone to be taking this drug other than the very high-risk groups in areas in which the avian disease has become a problem, including poultry farmers and medical staff,” he said.