The World Health Organization has adopted new regulations and procedures designed to contain and control outbreaks of diseases such as avian (bird) flu, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), new types of influenza, ebola virus, smallpox, and polio. Fears of a pandemic brought on by the realization that bird flu may be capable of human-to-human transmission prompted the organization to take this proactive approach which will empower it to restrict global travel and commerce to and from affected areas and allow WHO officials to demand detailed information from governments. The regulations have also been expanded to include situations involving bioterrorism, nuclear reactor accidents, and chemical spills.
The agency will also be able to act on information from non-governmental sources and health groups which will help avoid situations where a government attempts to downplay or even cover up a potentially dangerous situation. In related stories, Vietnam has announced that 18 people have now died from bird flu since December 2004 and China has ordered the implementation of emergency measures to prevent an outbreak of the disease.
The discovery of dead migratory birds has prompted the closure of nature preserves to the public, monitoring and quarantine of wild birds, immunization of poultry on farms in affected areas, and warning the public to stop any contact with poultry.