The World Health Organization says it is only a matter of time before bird flu becomes a global pandemic of human influenza.
WHO Director General Lee Jong-wook told health experts in Geneva Monday that migratory birds are spreading the virus around the world, increasing the chances it will mutate into a form that spreads easily among humans. As of now, bird flu can only be transmitted to humans by infected birds. More than 60 people in Asia have died, but no human cases have been reported outside Asia.
The experts in Geneva are discussing vaccine research and early detection of outbreaks. The World Bank said Monday that a global flu pandemic could cost 800-billion dollars -- about two percent of the world's gross domestic product. Meanwhile, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization called for more money to stop bird flu in farm animals. An organization official said Monday animal vaccination programs are "seriously underfunded."