Health Ministers of the 11-member Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC) have met in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), on a joint action against the threat of influenza A/H1N1.
At the initiative by DR Congo's President Joseph Kabila, who is also the CEEAC president, health officials of central African countries held an extraordinary meeting on Monday to discuss the prevention of the novel killer disease in the region.
There has been no confirmed landing of the disease in Africa although suspected cases were reported in South Africa, Benin and Zambia recently.
According to sources close to the CEEAC health meeting, officials decided to reinforce health surveillance while intensifying preparations for a possible outbreak, especially the anti-virus medications such as Tamiflu, equipment and laboratories.
Central African countries also decided to enhance cooperation with local media, civil society and religious leaders to popularize the knowledge of the disease and its prevention.
The CEEAC officials vowed to improve information sharing with international health agencies in order to have quick feedback and reduce transmission risks.
The CEEAC, established in October 1983, groups Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda and Sao Tome and Principe.
The CEEAC health gathering is part of African actions amid the quick spread of the new H1N1 strain of the flu, which contains genes from pig, bird and human influenza viruses.
On April 29, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised its flu alert level to Phase 5, one notch short of the highest, meaning a pandemic is imminent.
AU Commission Chairperson Jean Ping urged all member states to "be alert and vigilant" against any possible outbreak. AU health ministers held a conference on May 4-8 to discuss a joint mechanism.
Health experts see the world's poorest continent as the most vulnerable to the newly emerged disease, expressing concern about its capacity to deal with a pandemic, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
In a recent interview with Xinhua, Dr. Joyce K. Onsongo, WHO's disease prevention and control officer for Africa, stressed prevention as key to Africa's anti-A/H1N1 strategy.
In precautions, African countries are preparing antiviral drugs. Nigeria has placed an order for 2 million doses of Tamiflu. Algeria vows to put in stock 6 million doses of Tamiflu.