A potentially deadly new disease is emerging somewhere in the world every year, and the international community is ill-equipped to stop it from spreading, a British parliamentary committee has warned.

In a highly critical new report, the committee said there was an "urgent need" for a better global surveillance system to identify diseases before they infect large numbers of people.

It noted that three-quarters of newly-emerging human infections come from animals — but found many are only detected once they have made humans ill.

Experts estimate a devastating pandemic outbreak of a new disease such as SARS or the H5N1 strain of flu could claim anything between two and 50 million lives.

In evidence to the House of Lords Intergovernmental Organizations Committee inquiry, the Government said there had been no pandemic disease outbreaks since 1968.

However, it warned another pandemic outbreak was "inevitable".

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