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General Health : Infectious Disease Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

Asia united in bird flu fight
By Kathy Jones
Jul 29, 2006 - 12:45:00 PM

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29 July, ( - Bird flu-hit Asian countries have pledged to put up a united front against the menace by sharing knowledge and cooperating in the investigations in mutual countries.

At a two-day meeting in New Delhi, Ministers and senior officials of 11 Asian countries including China, Indonesia and Thailand, agreed to better coordinate efforts between health and farm agencies at national level.

The "Delhi Declaration," which was signed after the meeting also promised to collaborate in a streamlined manner to develop and produce drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tests and promote research to fight bird flu. The meeting was conducted under the aegis of the World Health Organization, the Food and Agricultural Organization and the Indian government.

India is nearly ready with its indigenous bird flu vaccine for poultry. The final trials for the vaccine have shown 90 percent success against the H5N1 bird flu virus.

"We are working toward a new model of regional collaboration among countries in Asia and the commitments we have made today would require a lot of coordination between countries and international organizations," said Anbumani Ramadoss, India's health minister.

He added that there was a need to coordinate to share information not only about outbreaks but also about preparedness levels.

India said that it was preparing to declare itself bird flu free since no outbreaks are reported after the February/March bird flu scare in Maharashtra state.

"India will declare itself bird flu free on Aug. 10 as no new cases have been reported in the past three months and authorities have completed cleaning and sanitation operations in the infected areas," said P.M.A. Hakeem, an Agriculture Ministry official.

There have been no human cases of bird flu reported from India so far.

The WHO said that lack of coordination was proving detrimental for the fight against bird flu. "Basically, the target populations of the different departments have been different: one focusing on poultry and the other people," said Subhash Salunke, WHO's regional advisor for communicable disease surveillance and response.

"In these days, where zoonotic diseases have the potential to become pandemics, the health and the agriculture departments have to coordinate," he added.

The meeting follows the confirmation by WHO that a 17-year-old teenager succumbed to bird flu in Thailand where the disease had been under control. The reappearance underscores the need for better communication among the region's nations.

According to World Health Organization figures 134 humans have so far fallen a victim to H5N1 virus. Most deaths have occurred in Asia, the majority of them reported this year have occurred in Indonesia, which struggled to control the spread of the virus.

The fear is that if the virus mutates to an easily transmissible form between humans it would trigger a pandemic worldwide.

Asian nations have been at the epicenter of the bird flu crisis ever since it reemerged in 2003. There is an urgent need to better coordinate among themselves so that the menace of bird flu can be effectively tackled, the meeting stressed.

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