China and ASEAN are considering an information exchange and notification
mechanism to fight avian flu and communicable diseases, a senior health official
The proposal was put forward at the first China-ASEAN symposium on human
infection with highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), which opened in Beijing
The idea is to facilitate the sharing of information, improve capacity
building, and strengthen cross-border institutional and operational
coordination, Wang Longde, China's vice-health minister, said.
It is expected to bridge some major intra-regional gaps, which, according to
a written statement by ASEAN Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong, include those "in
the early warning system, rapid response and containment capacity, vaccine
strategy, maintaining essential services and multi-sectoral coordination".
A draft will be put to discussion today for delegates from the World Health
Organization (WHO), the ASEAN Secretariat, China and ASEAN countries. If passed,
it will be submitted to the 2nd China-ASEAN Health Ministers Meeting, which will
be held sometime next year.
Sponsored by the Ministry of Health and organized by China's Center for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the seminar is a follow-up to Premier Wen
Jiabao's proposal to the 10th ASEAN-China Leaders' Summit held in the
Philippines this January.
Five ASEAN countries - namely, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and
Laos - and China are home to 80 percent of the world's reported cases of human
infection with HPAI, Wang said.
There were 318 HPAI cases reported between the end of 2003 and July 11, 2007
in 13 countries and regions, with a 60 percent fatality rate and a median age of
18 years, according to WHO epidemiologist Nima Asgari.
The median duration of illness is four days from onset to hospitalization,
and another five days until death, he said.
While "all ASEAN Member Countries have formulated their respective national
pandemic preparedness and response plans", Ong's statement said "the fight
against the diseases must go on and with greater vigilance".
ASEAN member states have already developed a joint action plan in various
areas on animal health. As for public health, ASEAN and China are in the second
phase of the ASEAN+3 emerging infectious diseases (EID) program to strengthen
regional coordination and communication.
China has intensified cooperation with its ASEAN neighbors on HPAI monitoring
and prevention in recent years. Among other joint initiatives, public health was
added to the list of "important spheres of collaboration" between China and
ASEAN nations in 2005.
There have been 25 human cases of H5N1 bird flu virus reported in China since
2003, causing 15 deaths.
(China Daily 07/18/2007 page2)