WHO Influenza Pandemic Task Force holds first meeting
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Influenza Pandemic
Task Force (IPTF), which has been established to advise the WHO on public health
issues related to avian and pandemic flu, met for the first time last week at
WHO Headquarters in Geneva.
The Task Force, whose current full membership is 21 members, has been
established to comply with a 2006 World Health Assembly Resolution. The task
force will advise on avian
and pandemic flu issues including the appropriate phase of pandemic
alert, the declaration of an influenza pandemic, and appropriate international
response measures to a pandemic.
The Task Force is a temporary body which will advise WHO
until the International Health
(IHR) come into force on 15 June 2007. At that time, an
emergency committee will be convened if and when needed to advise WHO on disease
events of international public health importance. The creation of this temporary
Task Force already allows WHO to begin implement the spirit of the IHR.
"The IHR are a key element in strengthening global health security. By
bringing this group of experts together and ensuring that we have established
effective means of working together when disease outbreaks occur, we can ensure
that we are getting both the best advice for WHO and building a platform of
shared knowledge and ability to respond to rapidly-evolving health emergencies
worldwide" said Dr Guenael Rodier, WHO Director responsible for the coordination
of IHR implementation.
The group's first meeting covered administrative issues such as roles and
responsibilities, and set out how meetings would be run. In urgent situations,
based on specific public health events, most future meetings would probably be
"virtual", held via tele- or video-conference, because of the need for a quick
turnaround time. Participants began discussion on the types of information which
would be relevant for their deliberations.
The Task Force further agreed that, in the period until 15 June 2007, it
will also serve a second function: as an expert advisory group to WHO's Global Influenza Programme
(GIP). Following 15 June 2007, two
separate bodies will function as needed - an IHR emergency committee, to be
convened if and when necessary, and an expert advisory group to GIP.
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