Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Agencies) The evolution of the H5N1 virus which causes bird flu will dwarf the SARS epidemic, this according to Peter Cordingley, WHO regional spokesman for Asia, who spoke at the opening of an Asia-wide conference that brought together officials from national and international organisations like WHO.
The conference is designed to provide participants with an update in the situation and highlight possible strategies to prevent viruses leaping from animals to humans, and creating a mutated flu germ.
Experts are focussing on high-risk areas like the backyard farms where most of Asia's food is produced and where people and animals live side by side.
Other hotspots include wet markets where birds are stored live for shoppers.
Should a major outbreak occur, "[t]here will be enormous economic dislocation," Peter Cordingley said. "Stock markets will close; international travel and trade will be limited."
According to WHO figures, bird flu has claimed 54 lives during the two waves that have come over China and South-East Asia since 2003.
The disease has struck more than 100 million birds with 100 per cent mortality since its beginning.
Contagion has also been lethal for humans with a known 54 per cent mortality rate.