ASEAN Launches Infectious Diseases Website

JAKARTA ~ The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) launched a new website this week for nations to compare notes on infectious diseases threatening the region.

The ASEAN Plus Three Countries website will help prevent deadly disease outbreaks by easing the exchange of information between ASEAN members and China, South Korea and Japan, the regional bloc said in a statement.

The website was being coordinated by Indonesia’s Health Ministry and would be jointly maintained by ASEAN, it said.

“Multilateral coordination which is mutually beneficial should be developed and maintained so it can continue, including through information exchange among nations,” Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari was quoted as saying by the state news agency Antara.

The minister’s backing of the website comes despite her highly publicized reticence over sharing information on the deadly bird flu virus.

Supari has angered many abroad by refusing to routinely share virus samples with the World Health Organisation, saying she fears rich nations will use them to create vaccines unaffordable to Indonesians.

Supari also said this month her ministry would no longer announce individual bird flu deaths to the media and has given conflicting statements about how often the public would be told of deaths.

Indonesia is the country worst-hit by the bird flu virus, with at least 108 people believed to have been killed by the virus. The most recent reported case, a 15-year-old girl, has not been confirmed by the minister.

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