Page last updated at 10:11 GMT, Monday, 21 July 2008 11:11 UK

Fear over pandemic disease effort

Lab Test
A flu pandemic is overdue, experts say

More needs to be done to protect against outbreaks of infectious diseases, a Lords report says.

The House of Lords Intergovernmental Organisations Committee said there was poor coordination between international organisations and governments.

It said improvements in surveillance and response systems had to be made to.

It comes as experts warn a flu pandemic is long overdue with some suggesting it could kill 75,000 in the UK and between 2m and 50m worldwide.

We need to encourage and strengthen cooperation between agencies and governments
Department of Health spokesman

The report acknowledged the threat from this, but also pointed out problems with diseases such as TB and malaria which were developing antibiotic resistance.

The Lords said the UK government's approach was good, but raised concern about how well organised the overall international effort was.

The report said there were too many organisations operating alongside one another, often duplicating each others' work.

And it called on the World Health Organisation to take a leadership role to iron out the problems

The report also raised concerns that arrangements for detecting new animal diseases were "less comprehensive" than those for human illnesses.

This is worrying as experts predict many new diseases will start in animals. Indeed, the likely source of a flu pandemic is birds.

And the report warned the increasing amount of international travel - there are 800m journeys a year - would ease the spread of a future pandemic.

Resources

Committee chairman Lord Soley said he was impressed with the resources being put in - the UK government hands out over 400m a year alone to international groups.

But he added: "For that to be effective it is vital that there is sufficient surveillance of disease outbreaks to limit their spread.

"We were particularly concerned about the link with animal health. Three quarters of new human infectious diseases start in animals. We urgently need better surveillance systems to deal with this problem."

And he also said there should be more focus on improving health services in the developing world where the burden of a pandemic could be the greatest.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "We agree that there is considerable scope to improve the effectiveness and coherence of intergovernmental organisations working in this area.

"We need to encourage and strengthen cooperation between agencies and governments."


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