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Jackie Chan in bird flu public service announcement

Joint Note for the media WHO/FAO/UNICEF

World-famous actor and martial arts expert Jackie Chan stars in a new television public service announcement to alert children and their families around the world to the dangers of highly pathogenic avian influenza, or bird flu.

The PSA was produced by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), with funding from the Government of Japan.

The one-minute spot shows Chan, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, with six children and some very colourful origami birds that are used to convey an essential message. Chan tells the girls and boys in a firm tone: birds can pass on avian influenza to people; so it’s important to stay away from sick and dead birds, especially chickens. He then nods approvingly as 8-year-old Ava pipes out: “But playing with paper birds is fine.”

While the PSA deals with a disease that has spread beyond Asia and often incites fear, it aims to do so with panache rather than panic.

“It was great to work with this group of children on something that concerns Asia and the entire world. This is not about creating alarm but helping children be more alert and careful. When it comes to bird flu, we don’t want to take any chances with our kids,” said Jackie Chan.

The children in the PSA, ranging in age from 6 to 9, were filmed at Sha Tin Junior School in Hong Kong. They all come from different parts of the globe, making this a truly international cast.

All six children were given a crash course in the art of origami making and some even passed on a few pertinent tips to Chan before the cameras rolled. As the PSA shows, both children and Chan were quick learners.

The PSA aims to harness the influence and popularity of Jackie Chan to reach the maximum number of households and will be broadcast as widely as possible. As the world’s biggest mass medium, television has a crucial role to play in communicating accurate and timely information about avian influenza, a disease that does not heed geographical borders or cultural boundaries.

A highly pathogenic form of avian influenza has been on the rise since mid 2003. The H5N1 virus was first detected in birds in South-East Asia and this year was reported in Europe, the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. Two hundred million birds have been killed directly by the virus or culled as the first line of defence to contain outbreaks and reduce the possibility of transmission to humans.

To date, there have been more than 230 human cases of influenza caused by the H5N1 virus, over half of which were fatal. The great majority of deaths have been in Asia. All evidence to date indicates that close contact with sick or dead birds is the principal source of human infection with the H5N1 virus. FAO is leading global efforts to eradicate avian influenza in birds, providing countries with policy advice, technical information, and support with surveillance, diagnosis and disease management. WHO is coordinating the worldwide response to human cases of the virus including assisting countries with their influenza pandemic preparedness efforts, rapidly investigating new human cases and monitoring the evolution of the virus. UNICEF is working closely with UN organizations, governments and other partners to arm families with the knowledge and skills they need to protect themselves from avian influenza and reduce the risk of a human influenza pandemic.

For more information contact:

Madeline Eisner
UNICEF Bangkok
Telephone: +66 2 356 9406
Mobile phone: +66 1 701 4626
E-mail: meisner@unicef.org

Tani Ruiz
UNICEF Bangkok
Telephone: +66 2 356 9409
Mobile phone: +66 9 204 3453
E-mail: truiz@unicef.org

Erica Kochi
UNICEF New York
Telephone: +1 212 326 7785
Mobile phone: +1 646 226 6361
E-mail: ekochi@unicef.org

Christopher Matthews
FAO Rome
Telephone: +39 06 570 53762
E-mail: Christopher.Matthews@fao.org

Dick Thompson
WHO Geneva
Telephone: +41 22 791 2684
E-mail: thompsond@who.int

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