WASHINGTON – Nations around the globe expressed willingness Friday to work together to limit the threat of a bird flu pandemic, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt (search) said.
Leavitt briefed reporters on the State Department conference, which was closed to the press, before he flies to Southeast Asia, where he will gauge for himself various countries' capacity to monitor the virus and prevent its spread.
The bird flu (search) so far has killed about 60 people, mostly poultry workers. Millions of birds have been slaughtered to try to prevent the spread of the virus.
Health officials are concerned about the possibility that the virus will mutate into a form that can be spread easily from person to person. Such a scenario would be catastrophic because people have no natural immunity to it.
"In a world with international travel as prevalent as it is now, if there is a pandemic influenza (search) anywhere, there is risk everywhere," Leavitt said.
He said he was heartened by the willingness of nearly 70 countries to participate in the conference and pledge their cooperation.