Asian nations have been called upon to be ready to deal with a bird flu pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). Shigeru Omi, the head of the WHO's western Pacific region office alerted countries in the region to be ready to respond immediately to any signs of the emergence of a pandemic strain of the H5N1 virus, saying the virus may come along with cases of bird flu.
While emphasizing that there was no actual indication of a pandemic beginning, Omi said: "Countries should do everything possible to be ready for such an event."
"Unlike the influenza pandemics of the past, this time the world has been given a warning that one may be on its way. We should use this precious time to be ready to counter-attack and try to stop any sign of a pandemic in its tracks," Omi said.
He made the statement on the eve of a meeting in Tokyo that Japan designed to identify the measures to enable countries in Asia to respond rapidly to the emergence of an influenza virus strain with a pandemic potential.
Swift and aggressive measures might be enough to contain a potential pandemic at its source or at least slow its spread, the WHO said. The measures would include the use of antiviral drugs for mass prophylaxis and also possible public health measures such as quarantine and social distancing, the WHO added.