At their meeting in Busan, South Korea, representatives from the twenty-one member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group, or APEC, endorsed a U.S. co-sponsored initiative on pandemic influenza. In their statement, APEC leaders said they "agreed on collective practical measures, including strengthening cooperation and technical assistance among APEC economies to limit influenza at its sources and prevent human outbreaks." APEC members also committed themselves "to effective surveillance, transparency and openness, and close domestic and international coordination and collaboration."
The avian influenza virus, H-5-N-1, has been found in migratory birds and poultry in Southeast Asia, China, Mongolia, Croatia, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and elsewhere. Millions of birds in Southeast Asia have been destroyed in an effort to stop the spread of avian influenza. More than sixty people who have had contact with infected fowl have died. While the current virus is hard for humans to contract, medical experts say it could mutate into a form that could be easily transmitted from person to person.
The U.S. has pledged some thirty-seven million dollars to help the countries most affected by avian influenza. President George W. Bush has announced his intention to devote an additional two-hundred-fifty-one million dollars to the international fight against avian and pandemic influenza:
"If left unchallenged, this virus could become the first pandemic of the twenty-first century. We must not allow that to happen."
The U.S. will partner with Indonesia and Singapore to create a model project to control avian influenza in Indonesia. The U.S. and China have also agreed on an initiative to strengthen bilateral cooperation. "It is essential we work together," says Mr. Bush, "and as we do so, we will fulfill a moral duty to protect our citizens, and heal the sick, and comfort the afflicted."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.