APEC leaders to call for fight against bird flu

Updated: 2006-11-14 14:49

HANOI, Vietnam - Pacific Rim leaders will endorse a plan to fight bird flu and cooperate in improving regional pandemic preparedness, according to a draft statement to be released this weekend.

Leaders from the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, gathering in Hanoi for their annual summit, will support a plan calling for enhanced surveillance, improved infrastructure and expanded technical collaboration in the region.

The plan follows a meeting in May at which health and agriculture ministers from the region agreed on ways to head off a potential pandemic, including calling for the restructuring of some backyard farming practices into larger, more controlled operations.

In the draft statement, the APEC leaders urge a "deepened engagement of the private sector to help ensure continuity of business, trade and essential services in the event of a pandemic outbreak."

The virulent H5N1 bird flu virus has killed at least 153 people worldwide since it began ravaging Asian poultry stocks in late 2003. Experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that spreads easily among humans, potentially sparking a pandemic.

So far, most human cases have been linked to contact with infected birds.

The APEC leaders also will call for better cooperation on AIDS, including pushing for rights for those living with the AIDS virus and universal access to prevention, care and treatment by 2010, the draft statement says.

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