Bird flu: France wants tougher WHO intervention

12th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 11, 2006 (AFP) - Two members of a French parliamentary probe into bird flu on Wednesday demanded the UN's health watchdog be given the statutory right to intervene in countries where dangerous epidemics have broken out.

PARIS, Jan 11, 2006 (AFP) - Two members of a French parliamentary probe into bird flu on Wednesday demanded the UN's health watchdog be given the statutory right to intervene in countries where dangerous epidemics have broken out.

Citing the outbreaks of avian influenza in China and Turkey, they urged the French government to back the idea of giving the World Health Organisation (WHO) the "right of health interference" in countries where key questions about an outbreak are unanswered.

The appeal was made by two Socialist members of parliament who are on a 31-member parliamentary panel investigating bird flu.

One of the pair is the mission's chairman, Jean-Marie Le Guen, who said "there are big questions about the real situation in China," given that in this vast country, where there had been major outbreaks of bird flu among poultry, the official toll was only five dead.

Another member of the investigative panel, Alain Clayes, questioned why it had taken the deaths of two children to occur before Turkey detected the H5N1 virus in its poultry flocks.

French Health Minister Xavier Bertrand, who briefed the lawmakers on the government's updated plan to fight any future flu pandemic, said the WHO would discuss an "international health regulation" at a meeting on January 23.

Bertrand added that an international meeting of donors on combatting bird flu, due to take place in Beijing on January 17 and 18, would "set down guidelines on the international exchange of information."

He did not give details.

At present, the WHO can only intervene in a health crisis if it is invited by the host country.

Experts at the agency have several times voiced frustration with China over transparency and the sharing of virus samples, both in the case of bird flu and the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Many health specialists also privately doubt the accuracy of official figures about the number of human cases in the bird flu scare.

However, these questions focus on any country that is poor in medical and veterinary resources, not just China.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article