At UN meeting, officials review procedures in case of flu pandemic
Making a watchword of preparedness, officials from 30 countries today wrapped up a two-day United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) meeting in Paris where they reviewed responses to a potential outbreak of a new strain of influenza caused by bird flu.
Avian influenza from the H5N1 virus is currently widespread among poultry and bird populations on three continents, officials were told by Dr. David Nabarro, the UN’s point man on the issue. It is known to have infected only a few hundred people to this point, but if it mutates into a strain that is rapidly transmissible among humans it could take a deadly and rapidly spreading toll.
Good planning, clear arrangements for direction and staff communications, a fully prepared work force, and clear procedures for customer and workplace safety are the keys to protecting the interests of travellers, companies, and the entire tourism sector, Dr. Nabarro told the group.
At any given time, there are over 2 million travellers abroad, and millions more travelling within home countries, according to Geoffrey Lipman, UNWTO Assistant Secretary-General. He underscored that there is no present threat to tourism from avian flu. The purpose of the two-day exercise in Paris, organized by the UNWTO, is to hone coordination within countries as well as across borders in the event of a regional or global crisis.
“The tourism sector is committed to being fully prepared in the event of a pandemic,” Mr. Lipman said. A special portal has been launched at www.sos.travel to help travellers and the industry in case of such an emergency.