APEC: will cooperate on vaccine, other bird flu measures

Asia Pacific economies will cooperate in developing a vaccine to guard against a bird flu-spawned pandemic, and will seek agreements on information sharing and other measures to combat the virus, a senior official said Sunday.

The initiatives were expected to be adopted by leaders of the 21-member Asia Pacific Cooperation Forum when they meet for their annual summit later this week, said Kim Jong-hoon, the South Korean host of senior officials' meetings that are finalizing the summit agenda.

Fears of a global flu pandemic that could kill millions have pushed bird flu high up on APEC's agenda this year. Experts fear the H5N1 strain of bird flu that is sweeping poultry populations in Asia could mutate into a form easily passed from person-to-person.

APEC foreign ministers are expected to note "the threat that the highly pathogenic avian influenza posed to the APEC region as well as to the world," and approve a range of measures to boost the region's preparedness, according to a draft statement obtained by The Associated Press.

APEC would organize a ministerial-level meeting on bird flu for the first half of next year, and consider a proposal to host an infectious diseases symposium in China, also in 2006, Kim said.

The draft statement says ministers would "call for further support to establish a regional stockpile of antiviral medication and to strengthen regional and international surveillance and response systems" against bird flu.

At least 64 people in Asia have been killed by bird flu, mostly after coming into contact with infected birds, and outbreaks have resulted in the death or destruction of millions of birds, reported AP. P.T.

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