Asia is expected to witness more human cases of the bird flu according to Satkunanantham, the Director of Medical Services at Singapore's Ministry of Health.
'The risk of further human cases appearing will persist as countries in the (Asian) region have a large number of backyard farms where domestic poultry are in close contact with wild birds and humans,' he said. This presents many opportunities for fresh outbreaks in both poultry and humans, Satkunanantham said.
'The avian H5N1 virus is now entrenched in Asia,' he stressed. Experts at the World Health Organization believe that the world is now closer to another influenza pandemic than at any time since 1968, Satkunanantham noted.
Satkunananthan's comments came during discussions for a conference on influenza to be held by The Lancet, a leading medical journal, in May. Another major conference on bird flu concluded in Beijing.
Plans are underway in the city-state for practice drills simulating a bird flu outbreak to prepare healthcare workers and the public in case of an outbreak of the virus. Singapore has so far not reported a single case.
The H5N1 virus has become endemic across parts of Asia where millions of birds have been culled. It has also been found in wild birds and poultry in a third of Turkey, bordering Europe. The H5N1 has infected nearly 150 people in six countries, killing more than half its victims. The bird flu has claimed at least 79 lives since 2003.