Flu pandemic may kill 50m worldwide22 Jul 2008, 0000 hrs IST,ANI
WASHINGTON: The world is at the risk of an "inevitable" disease pandemic, which could kill 50 million people and wreak massive disruption around the globe, the British government has warned. In a report, the House of Lords Intergovernmental Organisations Committee said that new infectious diseases are emerging and being given the opportunity to spread because of changes in ways of life. The committee called for urgent improvements to international surveillance so that action can be taken against outbreaks of infectious disease before they develop into pandemics. Describing the World Health Organisation as "dysfunctional", the committee said that it should be organised to cope with the threat. Ministers warned that there was "no agreed vision or clarity over roles" among the international bodies working in the field. The committee heard evidence that while there had not been a pandemic since 1968, another one was inevitable. They were told by ministers: "Estimates are that the next pandemic will kill between two million and 50 million people worldwide and between 50,000 and 75,000 in the UK. Socio-economic disruption will be massive." The committee said that with three quarters of newly emerging human infections originating from animals, more stringent ways of detecting diseases are needed. "The last 100 years have seen great advances in public health and disease control through the world, but globalization and changes in lifestyles are giving rise to new infections and providing opportunities for them to spread rapidly," the Telegraph quoted Clive Soley, the chairman of the committee, as saying. "We are particularly concerned about the link with animal health," he added. Peers joined ministers calling for urgent action to build up early warning systems across the third world that can identify and neutralise outbreaks of potentially deadly new strains of disease before they are swept across the globe by modern travel. They asked the government to consider urgently how it funds aid projects in developing countries so the funds can also help UK's defences against a pandemic. While the last two pandemics in the 1950s and 1960s were triggered by mild strains of influenza, future ones could be far more serious, particularly if linked to the H5N1 strain of bird flu a type that has already jumped species from birds to humans. According to the report, bird flu "at some point in the near future" could become capable of "human to human transmission".