A global meeting coordinated by the World Health Organisation, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) and the World Bank has identified key components of a global action plan to control avian influenza in animals and simultaneously limit the threat of a human influenza pandemic.

More than 600 delegates from over 100 countries agreed that there is an urgent need for financial and other resources for countries which have already been affected by avian influenza, as well as for those which are most at risk, and to identify and respond to a human pandemic the moment it emerges.

Experts and officials set out key steps that must be taken in response to the threat of the H5N1 influenza virus which is currently circulating in animals in Asia and has been identified in parts of Europe, including: improving veterinary services, emergency preparedness plans and control campaigns including culling, vaccination and compensation; assisting countries to control avian influenza in animal populations; strengthening early detection and rapid response systems for animal and human influenza; and building and strengthening laboratory capacity.

We must use all our assets and skills to the best effect, avoid duplication, share expertise, learn from our experiences and tune-up our ways of working. We must focus on support for existing country mechanisms and provide integrated global joint plans, programmes and monitoring," said Dr. David Nabarro, senior UN system coordinator for avian and human influenza.