World-famous actor and martial arts expert Jackie Chan stars in a United Nations-backed television public service announcement alerting children and their families around the world to the dangers of bird flu, which has killed more than 130 people worldwide and led to the deaths of 200 million birds.
The one-minute announcement was produced by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), with funding from the Government of Japan, and it shows Mr. Chan, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, with six children and some very colourful origami birds.
Mr. Chan tells the girls and boys, who come from all over the world, that birds can pass on flu, or avian influenza, to people, so it’s important to stay away from sick and dead birds, especially chickens. He then nods approvingly as 8-year-old Ava pipes up: “But playing with paper birds is fine.”
“It was great to work with this group of children on something that concerns Asia and the entire world. This is not about creating alarm but helping children be more alert and careful. When it comes to bird flu, we don’t want to take any chances with our kids,” said Mr. Chan.
The children, ranging in age from six to nine, were filmed at Sha Tin Junior School in Hong Kong although bird flu, which was first detected in Southeast Asia, has now spread to most parts of the world and the TV announcement will be broadcast as widely as possible, UNICEF said.
There have been more than 230 human cases of influenza caused by the H5N1 virus, over half of which were fatal and 200 million birds have been killed directly by the virus or culled as the first line of defence to contain outbreaks and reduce the possibility of transmission to humans.
The great majority of human deaths have been in Asia and all evidence indicates that close contact with sick or dead birds is the principal source of human infection with the H5N1 virus.
FAO is leading global efforts to eradicate avian influenza in birds, while WHO is coordinating the worldwide response to human cases of the virus and UNICEF is working closely with UN organizations, governments and other partners to arm families with the knowledge and skills they need to protect themselves and reduce the risk of a human influenza pandemic.