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Ref: Asian responders practice bird flu response


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Asia practises bird flu response

Mon Apr 2, 4:06 AM ET
Over 1,000 experts from Southeast Asia, Japan and the World Health Organisation took part Monday in an exercise to sharpen response to any future bird flu pandemic.

The exercise involved an supposed outbreak of the human strain of bird flu in a fictitious area of Cambodia, where about 9,500 people in 20 villages were at risk of getting infected.

It was run from the WHO Western Pacific office in Manila and focused on the rapid fielding of personnel to contain the threat.

WHO regional director Shigeru Omi issued a mock appeal to members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for the swift delivery of Tamiflu supplies and protective equipment to the outbreak zone.

In the simulation, goggles and masks were also "dispatched" from a stockpile managed by a private contractor in Singapore to Cambodia.

"The exercise ... is a test of rapid communications within the partners taking part: ASEAN, Japan, Cambodia, and WHO," said WHO regional spokesman Peter Cordingley.

The exercise was a "learning process", he said.

"We will be trying to establish what obstacles might crop up in a real-life situation. This will help us be better prepared if there is a real crisis," he said.

Recent cases of human deaths in Indonesia were "a reminder that the threat from this virus is very real and we must improve our readiness for a worst-case scenario," Cordingley said.

On Sunday, Indonesian authorities confirmed two more deaths from the the human strain of bird flu, taking the death toll to 71.

Test results confirmed a 22-year-old man and a 28-year-old woman died from the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus, making Indonesia the worst hit within the 10-nation ASEAN.

The WHO says there have been 281 cases of bird flu infection among humans and 169 deaths worldwide, mostly in Southeast Asia.

Scientists fear the H5N1 bird flu strain could mutate into a form easily spread among humans, leading to a global pandemic with the potential to kill millions.

Copyright İ 2007 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AFP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Agence France Presse.

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