An APEC ministerial meeting on Thursday called for further action in fight against bird flu as there is still potential threat of H5N1 virus to mutate into a pandemic strain in the Asia-Pacific region as well as the world.
At the 18th Ministerial Meeting of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the ministers and representatives noted in a statement that "the potential for the highly pathogenic avian influenza/H5N1 virus to mutate into a pandemic strain remains a continued threat to the APEC region and the world."
Therefore, they stressed the continuing need for vigilance and action to prevent the disease from outbreak.
They renewed their commitment to transparent communication of outbreak and the sharing of samples for research to improve preparedness.
The member economies agreed to continue to collaborate with International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza and to maintain cooperation with specialized international organizations for global preparedness and emergency response capacities.
In the past year, the APEC members have collectively and individually worked hard to control the spread of the bird flu virus and progress has been achieved.
However, World Health Organization officials said that avian influenza remains the No. 1 danger for global public health.
Over the last one year, the avian influenza has gone global, spreading rapidly beyond its East Asian stronghold to the countries in South Asia, Europe, Middle East and Africa.
So far, more than 50 countries have reported H5N1 outbreaks, most of them since January 2006, causing an estimate of 220 million bird deaths and significant damage to rural livelihoods, especially in the poorest areas, according to the World Bank.
Asia has been hit the hardest by bird flu with more than 130 human deaths since 2003 when the disease occurred in East Asian countries.