10 Mar 2007

Avian influenza on the agenda for meeting of Pacific Island health ministers

11:07 am on 10 March 2007

Health ministers and senior officials from 21 Pacific Island countries begin a three day meeting today in Vanuatu to seek ways to further promote the health of Pacific people and to strengthen the collaborative fight against disease.

High on the agenda will be the threat of an influenza pandemic caused by the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus circulating in a number of countries around the world, including in Asia.

Discussions on this subject will focus on the World Health Organization's Asia Pacific Strategy for Emerging Diseases.

Also up for discussion will be the midterm review of the Regional Strategy on HIV and its implementation, coordinated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

The meeting will also see the launch of the Pacific Islands Mental Health Network and the Oceania Society

for Sexual Health and HIV Medicine.

Dr Shigeru Omi, WHO's Regional Director for the Western Pacific, says the Pacific Islands have very special health challenges and he is sure this meeting will go a long way towards addressing those issues.