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China, Japan, ROK Agree to Jointly Combat Flu Outbreak

China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) on Sunday adopted an action plan to jointly combat possible pandemic influenza outbreaks.

The three countries agreed to share flu information and improve cooperation in risk intervention, according to the plan signed by Chinese Health Minister Chen Zhu and his Japanese counterpart Masuzoe Yoichi and the ROK's Jeon Jae Hee.

Under the plan, each country is to appoint a permanent agency for communication with other countries in case of flu or avian influenza outbreaks.

Influenza is an infectious disease in birds and mammals. In serious cases, it can lead to pneumonia, which can be fatal, particularly in young children and the elderly.

The avian strain named H5N1 has posed the greatest risk of a new flu pandemic since it first killed humans in Asia in the 1990s. To date, the virus has not mutated to a form that spreads easily between people.

"As close neighbors, China, Japan and the ROK have active personnel and commercial exchanges, which increases the risk of flu infection," said Chen. "Close cooperation will help lower the damage of possible flu outbreaks to this region."

Three major international pandemic flu outbreaks occurred last century: from 1918 to 1919; 1957 to 1958; and 1968 to 1969. They caused huge economic losses and killed millions of people.

(Xinhua News Agency November 3, 2008)

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