High ranking health officials from more than 20 countries gathered Monday to discuss ways to prevent a possible deadly outbreak of bird flu in humans and contain an epidemic of Japanese encephalitis that has killed nearly 1,000 people in South Asia.
The Western Pacific Regional meeting of the World Health Organization started Monday in Noumea, the capital of France's archipelago nation of New Caledonia, and runs through Friday.
Participants will focus on a strategy for containing emerging diseases in the Asia Pacific region, including human infections from bird flu, Japanese encephalitis, AIDS and tuberculosis.
Health ministers and policy makers are to endorse a set of guidelines "strengthen national and regional capacity for early detection, rapid response, and preparedness for emerging diseases," WHO said.
They also require WHO member countries to mobilize "adequate and sustainable financial resources to implement the strategy," and ask wealthy nations to provide financial or logistical help to poorer countries where disease outbreaks are likely to occur.
Last week, Indonesia last week confirmed its fourth human death from the bird flu virus, bringing the total number deaths in Asia to 63.
WHO has said it will use the reserve stocks of the drug oseltamivir, known commercially as Tamiflu to respond quickly to any emerging influenza pandemic if stocks held by individual countries are not enough.
The WHO meeting will also focus on an outbreak of Japanese encephalitis that has killed nearly 1,000 people in South Asia. The mosquito-borne disease kills a number of people, mostly children, each year during the monsoon rains in the South Asian region, but this season's toll is the highest in many years.
India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, has been hardest hit by the outbreak. The disease is preventable with vaccinations, but the provincial government has said it does not have enough money to vaccinate its children, reports the AP.