Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam The challenges in eradicating a virus now entrenched in a region crowded with both people and poultry will be the focus of a regional bird flu conference that opens Wednesday in Ho Chi Minh City.
The meeting by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health will be looking at ways the international community can coordinate a long-term strategy to fight the disease.
So far, 45 people from Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia have died from the H5N1 strain of the virus.
"The difference is that last year we were looking at it as a situation of an outbreak. Now we know that avian influenza is a problem that's going to be here to stay," said Anton Rychener, head of the U.N. agency in Hanoi.
"The longer we wait to address this problem jointly, the greater the danger becomes that the virus will mutate with the human influenza virus and we have a pandemic."