BANGKOK, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Every country in the world must come up urgently with a plan to deal with an inevitable influenza pandemic likely to be triggered by the bird flu virus that hit Asia this year, a top global health expert said on Friday.
"I believe we are closer now to a pandemic than at any time in recent years," said Shigeru Omi, regional director for the Western Region of the World Health Organization (WHO).
"No country will be spared once it becomes a pandemic," he told a news conference.
The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 and 1919 killed upwards of 20 million people and WHO experts say the next could infect up to 30 percent of the world's more than 6 billion people and kill up to 7 million of them.
Omi said that to stave that off, the world would have to cooperate closely by sharing information promptly and openly on the virus -- such as how it spreads, why it hits children more easily than adults and how quickly it is mutating.