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Ciptapangan Visitor
Thailand Presents Bird Flu Plan to Neighbors
posted by admin on 09/05/06

The plan was presented to officials from Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar.

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand presented a bird flu action plan to its poorer Southeast Asian neighbours on Monday and called for international help for the region hit hard by the deadly virus.

The plan, covering key areas such as surveillance of poultry and control measures, was presented to officials from Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar at a meeting in Bangkok.

"What we need to do is to translate what has been discussed and achieved on paper into a concrete plan," Thai Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon told the meeting.

The H5N1 virus reemerged in Asia in 2003. Since then it has spread to more than 48 countries and killed 114 people in nine countries across the world.

Vietnam, with 42 deaths out of 93 human cases reported, has the highest casualty rate but it has not had a human case of H5N1 since November.

Thailand, once among the worst-hit countries, has earmarked $2.5 million to train and equip officials from its poorer neighbours. But Kantathi conceded that the funds fell short of what was needed.

"To do much more, we will need the support of our international partners," he said.

The World Bank and its partners estimate that the global cost of necessary prevention and preparatory programs could reach up to $1.4 billion over the next 3 years, the minister said.

The government in secretive, military-ruled Myanmar says it has brought bird flu under control after thousands of birds and eggs were destroyed on hundreds of farms.

In Cambodia, where a 12-year-old boy became the country's sixth bird flu victim in April, the virus persists mainly in provinces abutting Vietnam.

Laos has reported no human cases but it found bird flu among poultry in 2003.

Health experts fear the H5N1 virus could mutate into a form that jumps easily between people and start a global flu pandemic.

As basic health care barely exists outside urban areas in countries such as Laos and Cambodia, officials say a human outbreak may not be detected until it is too late.

"Experts tend to agree that avian influenza is now moving towards its fourth phase, that of human-to-human infection," Kantathi said.

"Of course, no one knows how and when this might happen, but if it does so, the threat of a pandemic would be upon us."

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

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