The United Nations health agency’s Influenza Pandemic Task Force (IPTF), which will advise the world body on how best to respond to health issues of global concern related to bird flu and pandemic influenza, has held its first meeting in Geneva.
The Task Force is a temporary body that will operate until the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Health Regulations 2005 (IHR) come into force on 15 June 2007, the agency said, at which point an emergency committee will be convened if and when needed to advise on disease events of global public health importance.
"The International Health Regulations (IHR) are a key element in strengthening global health security. By bringing this group of experts together and ensuring that we have established effective means of working together… we can ensure that we are getting both the best advice for WHO and building a platform of shared knowledge," said Dr Guenael Rodier, WHO Director responsible for the coordination of IHR implementation.
The meeting of the Task Force, which took place yesterday in Geneva, covered administrative issues such as roles and responsibilities, as well as setting out how meetings would be run, WHO said, adding that the 21-member body would also give advice on the appropriate phase of pandemic alert.
The Force also agreed that until the middle of next year, it will serve as an expert advisory group to WHO's Global Influenza Programme (GIP), while after 15 June 2007, two separate bodies will function as needed – an IHR emergency committee, to be convened if and when necessary, and an expert advisory group to GIP.
"We welcome the fact that the Task Force is up and running. It will complement other technical partnerships and networks… and ensure that the IHR, when they come into force, move quickly from being simply a legal framework to being a functional support to our efforts to improve global health security," added Dr Mike Ryan, Director of WHO's Department for Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response.