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Eleven Asian countries to meet in India on bird flu

By Manager Online

27 July 2006 18:01

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Officials from 11 Asian countries will meet in New Delhi for two days starting Thursday to discuss bird flu control and worst-case scenario preparations, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said.

"The secretary-level meeting will take place tomorrow," said Harsaran Bir Kaur Pandey, spokeswoman for the WHO Southeast Asia regional office.

"The day after will be the ministerial-level meeting."

Ministers from the health or agriculture departments of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka are expected to attend.

Officials representing Bhutan, Indonesia and Thailand will also be in New Delhi to take part in the working meeting Thursday.

Senior officials from the WHO, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the three main international bodies spearheading the efforts to control bird flu will attend as well, the WHO said.

Southeast Asia has been the region hit hardest by the bird flu virus, which can spread from infected birds to people in close proximity and provokes flu-like symptoms in humans.

The meeting in New Delhi will focus on preparing for a pandemic, animal husbandry issues and on how to improve communication with local communities.

"Communication is always an issue because you need to reach out to the community and they need to understand what are the issues so they can take the desired action," said Pandey.

"In all our countries we haven't necessarily reached the level of communication we need."

The arrival of the disease in western India earlier this year led to the culling of more than a million birds by health authorities. The country hopes to regain bird-flu free status in August, if no new cases are reported.

Bird flu has claimed 133 lives worldwide since 2003, according to WHO figures, with Indonesia and Vietnam suffering the most with 42 deaths each.

The Manager
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