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WikiLeaks Report on Bird Flu

One of secret cables published by WikiLeaks relates to plans regarding the possible spread of bird flu into the human population of New Zealand. Excerpts from a U.S. State Department report notes that:

Since launching a government-wide effort in June, the [Government of New Zealand] has vigorously planned for the possibility of avian and pandemic influenza entering New Zealand. The GNZ has sought to shore up its inability to produce human vaccines by securing an agreement with an Australia-based manufacture to provide priority access to a vaccine once it is developed.

New Zealand’s area of greatest weakness is that it does not have local capacity to manufacture human vaccines.

There is no reason to doubt the government’s truthfulness in reporting the scope of any disease outbreak among people or animals. New Zealand has a mature public health surveillance system, including two programs specifically dedicated to monitoring influenza. Preparing for an avian flu pandemic ranks highly among government priorities. The Ministry of Health models assume a pandemic wave in which 40% of the NZ population will become ill over an eight-week period with a 2% fatality rate (33,000 deaths in the eight-week period).

The complete cable is available here.