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Health ministers from Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela agreed at a meeting on 21 October to work together to combat the threat of a human flu pandemic.

Although the H5N1 bird flu virus has not been detected in the Americas, the ministers said the virus poses a potential risk to public and animal health.

They agreed to strengthen the Andean Network of Epidemic Vigilance and add influenza to the list of diseases it does surveillance for. Laboratories in the region will also be strengthened to improve their ability to detect and respond to the H5N1 virus.

The ministers said the global community must share information about the spreading virus and work together to produce and distribute more flu drugs.

They stressed the need to inform the public of the differences between human flu, bird flu, and a virus — which has not yet emerged — that could cause pandemic flu.

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