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ASEAN meets to plan swine flu prevention

ASEAN and the "plus three" countries - China, Japan and South Korea - concluded a special emergency meeting about the H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu, on Friday.

Mum Bunheng, Cambodia's health minister who led the country's delegation, said the nations agreed to consider a system that would make it easier to share essential supplies in times of need.

The countries also urged the World Health Organisation to ensure equitable distribution of pandemic vaccines and to help increase the vaccine manufacturing capacities of the region, according to a joint statement released Friday.

Though the flu has not spread widely in Southeast Asia, health ministers vowed to work together. "We pledge our commitment to fully implement these measures for the well-being of our people and for the peace, prosperity and stability of the region," the joint statement said.

Surin Pitsuwan, secretary general of ASEAN,  said the region's quick response to the crisis demonstrated that "our region is better-prepared".

The  statement added the nations would work together to ensure effective and timely deployment of medicines by conducting joint exercises and that it would assess the potential need and increase national stockpiles of flu drugs accordingly.

Surin specifically thanked Prime Minister Hun Sen for insisting on the meeting, which he did during an April 29 graduation speech.

There have been no suspected H1N1 cases in Cambodia, but South Korea has had three confirmed cases of the virus. Worldwide as of Sunday, the WHO says 2,371 people have been confirmed with H1N1, and 44 have died.

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