President Bush To Unveil Bird Flu Strategy

The strategy will include plans to identify an outbreak as soon as it appears, work to contain it and treat it "to the best extent possible," White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said.

The announcement by Bush comes as disaster coordinators from Pacific rim countries discuss ways to head off such a crisis. One way to contain the virus would be to devise a cell-based vaccine against it and to stockpile antiviral medicines, two efforts that are currently under way, McClellan said.

By the end of the year, more than 4 million courses of antiviral treatment should be on hand, though that number is far lower than what the World Health Organization has urged. In addition, scientists are redoubling their efforts to create the next generation of vaccine, one that would be cell-based rather than the current egg-based versions. Cell-based vaccines could be mass-produced quickly, which could prove to be a critical advantage in the event of a pandemic.

The bird flu virus H5N1 has circulated largely among flocks in Asia, though it has spread to birds in 16 countries, including Russia and parts of Europe. In all, more than 140 million birds have been killed to stem its spread, which scientists blame on migratory birds.