July 24, 2008


Southeast Asia to test bird flu pandemic readiness


Southeast Asian health officials plan to assess the ability of their governments to respond to a deadly human pandemic of bird flu, an Indonesian official said Wednesday (July 23).


Representatives from member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed they must be better organized to tackle a human-to-human outbreak of the bird flu virus, said Indonesian bird flu committee chief, Bayu Krisnamurthi.


Many of Asean's 10 countries have little organized bureaucracy or infrastructure to tackle such a pandemic, which could kill millions if it mutates into a more easily transmissible form, Krisnamurthi said. 


First we would like an assessment of Asean countries on pandemic preparedness, he said. If pandemic influenza happened in one of the Asean countries, the reach and the impact would be on a regional scale."


Countries are expected to finish assessing their preparedness by February next year, Krisnamurthi said.


Asean health ministers will also meet in Manila in October to discuss preparedness and the need to develop a common language to deal with the threat, he said.


Indonesia was most heavily affected by the bird flu virus, with 110 of the world's 243 confirmed human deaths occurring within its borders, according to the World Health Organization.

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