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China, WHO sign virus co-op deal
By Zhang Feng and Zhao Huanxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-21 06:13

A draft agreement on China's commitment to share virus samples isolated from human H5N1 cases with the World Health Organization (WHO) was signed yesterday in Beijing.

The agreement was signed by the WHO and the Chinese Ministry of Health when Shigeru Omi, the WHO's regional director for the Western Pacific, visited the ministry and the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday.

This agreement follows a pledge made by Chinese Health Minister Gao Qiang in Ottawa at a bird flu summit a few months ago.

"Details and logistics still have to be finalized, but the commitment is there, and it is hoped that this sharing will serve as a template for a regular virus sharing mechanism for the future," Roy Wadia, spokesman of the WHO Beijing Office, told China Daily.

Up to now, China has witnessed six human cases of bird flu including two deaths in five provinces and regions Hunan, Anhui, Guangxi, Liaoning and Jiangxi.

Shigeru Omi leaves today for Central China's Hunan Province, which in November recorded China's first human H5N1 case.

China's transparency lauded

A senior US health official yesterday lauded China's transparency in its fight against bird flu, and said the two countries are co-operating well in the field.

"There is a definite willingness to be completely co-operative, be completely transparent and to exchange samples with the WHO and with other partners so we can track the genetic changes," Elias Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health, said when commenting on the current bird flu control effort in China.

In addition to transparency, China has tremendously increased the amount of scientific involvement in the prevention and control of the infection, he told a news conference in Beijing.

The US and Chinese centres for disease control and agriculture ministries were collaborating to improve the ability to detect and diagnose the virus early and train experts, Zerhouni said.

"We are also co-operating in finding ways of increasing production of Tamiflu both in the US and China, and we are co-operating in vaccine research to try to develop effective vaccines," he said, adding the most important area to enhance co-operation is to study how the virus is changing so that appropriate vaccines could be developed more quickly.

Fundraising efforts

The Chinese central government, the Commission of European Union, and the World Bank will jointly hold an international fund-raising conference for bird flu control and prevention among poultry and human beings from January 17 to 18, 2006 in Beijing.

The conference will evaluate the financial and technology demands for bird flu control in affected countries and regions, and mobilize various sides to raise funds for the war against the epidemic, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

To show the political commitment against avian influenza among various countries, a "Beijing Declaration" will be signed at the conference to push forward world co-operation in fighting the disease.

(China Daily 12/21/2005 page2)

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