UN health agency advises South-East Asian nations in fight against A(H1N1) virus

19 August 2009

The United Nations health agency is providing practical information and technical expertise to countries in South-East Asia to help reduce panic and encourage prevention against the influenza A(H1N1) virus, which has already claimed over 80 lives in the region and continues to spread.

The United Nations health agency is providing practical information and technical expertise to countries in South-East Asia to help reduce panic and encourage prevention against the influenza A(H1N1) virus, which has already claimed over 80 lives in the region and continues to spread.

“It is important to remember that Member States in South-east Asia have been preparing for pandemic influenza for years and that preparedness could help them with the current pandemic,” said Samlee Plianbangchang, Regional Director for the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO is assisting countries in the region to strengthen surveillance, laboratory capacity, anti-viral and vaccine production and distribution, and information for the public, she added.

The agency reiterated the need to promote practices such as frequent hand-washing and covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of the virus, which has now been reported in over 170 countries and territories worldwide.

As of 6 August, the virus had affected over 11,400 people in South-East Asia and led to at least 83 deaths.

Among other issues, the agency noted that in general, identifying sick students and keeping them at home is more beneficial than school closures. In addition, it stressed that the use of surgical face masks is recommended only for patients and health-care workers.

WHO has transferred technology and development funds to vaccine manufacturers in the region, including Serum Institute of India, Biopharma (Indonesia) and GPO (Thailand), which together have the capacity to produce some 220 million doses of a vaccine annually.

In a bid to reassure the public after concerns were raised in the media, the agency stated earlier this month that the rush to produce a vaccine to fight the spread of the influenza A(H1N1) virus will not jeopardize the safety or effectiveness of any new drug.

To have the greatest impact, vaccines need to be available quickly and in large quantities as they are among the most effective medical interventions for reducing illness and deaths during a pandemic, it added.

WHO calculates that completing the steps involved in developing a new vaccine from start – obtaining a virus sample – to finish, when the first supplies of the approved vaccine available for use, takes around five to six months.

 

♦ Receive daily updates directly in your inbox - Subscribe here to a topic.
♦ Download the UN News app for your iOS or Android devices.

News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

Expediting vaccine for influenza A(H1N1) will not jeopardize safety – UN agency

The rush to produce a vaccine to fight the spread of the influenza A(H1N1) virus will not jeopardize the safety or effectiveness of any new drug, the United Nations health agency said today in a bid to reassure the public after concerns were raised in the media.