The Caribbean must be prepared to quickly detect bird flu if it appears, with testing laboratories and veterinarians in place to help take prompt action, regional health officials said Saturday after a two-day meeting.
Health officials from the Caribbean joined officials from the United Nations and the Pan American Health Organization for talks in Trinidad that ended Friday.
The region needs to strengthen its surveillance methods and improve bird quarantine facilities, Caribbean Invasive Species Working Group said in a statement summing up the talks.
It said officials were concerned "it would only be a matter of time before the dreaded virus reaches the region," and it said greater efforts were needed to monitor "invasive species" of birds that could be carriers.
The group urged the region to establish a network of diagnostic labs and specialists that could swiftly be tapped if necessary.
World health experts fear the H5N1 strain of bird flu, which has been detected recently in Romania, Turkey, Russia and Croatia, could mutate into a human form and cause a flu pandemic, AP reports.