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Asian Nations To Take Joint Efforts Against H5N1

An action plan has been drafted by 22 Asian countries to combat the bird flu menace which threatens to turn into a human influenza pandemic in the region. The plan, to be finalized in two weeks, // calls for collaboration among Asian nations, most of which have already been affected by bird flu outbreaks, the World Health Organization and other partners.

The draft was proposed at the end of the two-day session of the Japan-WHO Joint Meeting on Early Response to Potential Influenza Pandemic. About 130 delegates and experts from 22 nations attended the session, amid rising concern over the H5N1 virus.

The plan calls for setting up a task force to increase capacities to detect and respond early to a potential pandemic, to build a network of regional and global laboratories, and to provide technical expertise and training in poultry farming. Interest in and commitment to the issue by wealthier nations are much higher than two years ago, said Shigeru Omi, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific at a press conference.

'I'm quite optimistic on how much support will be given,' Omi said, citing Japan's decision to donate 500,000 doses of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu and financial pledges of between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion to be finalized in Beijing next week. Since late 2003, the lethal influenza has killed more than 70 people. The latest deaths were reported in Turkey.

Edited (IANS)

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