Avian Flu Action founded to address possible pandemic

Mathew Little

The first UK charity to deal with the threat of a bird flu pandemic is about to be launched.

Avian Flu Action is the brainchild of voluntary sector veteran Bob Kahn, the former director of the Catholic Housing Aid Service. Its strapline is "Seeking informed calmness, avoiding ignorant panic".

Indonesia is the latest country to suffer an outbreak of bird flu, with six people known to have died there since July.

The World Health Organisation has warned that if the virus learns how to jump from human to human, it should cause millions of deaths worldwide.

"People don't realise that if that happens, the economic life of the UK will fall apart," Kahn warned. "There is no way schools or public gatherings are going to happen; it would be too dangerous."

He said the charity would set up local emergency plans to deal with an outbreak, working closely with health services and local government. It would also educate the public about the dangers.

"You've got to find a path between panic and ignorance," he said.

The organisation is seeking funding from trusts and foundations.

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