Opening remarks at the Intergovernmental Meeting on Pandemic Influenza Preparedness
15 May 2009
Sharing of influenza viruses, access to vaccines and other benefits
Dr Margaret Chan
Director-General of the World Health Organization
History is being made at these meetings. I would have liked to have been there. I respect Dr. Chan. She knows the score, and what is at stake.
Quote from www.who.int/
For five long years, countries in several parts of the world have been closely responding to outbreaks of H5N1 avian influenza in animals, and sporadic cases in humans.
I thank health officials, clinicians, and scientists in all these countries, and the many experts and laboratories located elsewhere, for their unflagging vigilance and diligence in keeping close watch over this virus.
Today, we know that a virus with great pandemic potential, the new strain of the H1N1 virus, has emerged from another source on another side of the world. This virus has quickly demonstrated its capacity to spread easily from one person to another, to spread widely within an affected country, and to spread rapidly to additional countries.
We expect this pattern of international spread to continue.
Outside Mexico, where the outbreak is not yet fully understood, the overwhelming majority of cases have been mild and self-limiting, with no need for treatment. Cases of severe or fatal infections have been largely, but not exclusively, confined to people with underlying chronic conditions.
We do not know if this partly reassuring picture will be maintained.
... scientists are concerned about possible changes that could take place as the virus spreads to the southern hemisphere and encounters currently circulating human viruses, as the normal influenza season in this hemisphere begins.
Second, as all of you know, the H5N1 avian influenza virus is endemic in poultry in some parts of the world. It is out there, entrenched. No one can predict how the H5N1 virus will behave under the pressure of a pandemic.