IPOH: The Asean+3 grouping will forge a networking to monitor outbreaks of diseases and establish an early warning system of new health threats by December.
Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said this move was decided at the just-concluded meeting of senior laboratory officials from 10-nation Asean as well as China South, South Korea and Japan which was held in Penang.
The officials, he said, had come up with the draft of a tentative plan of action for laboratories to monitor the outbreaks of diseases and to set up an early warning system of new diseases or re-emergence of old ones where the viruses or bacteria had mutated.
This plan is to be agreed upon at the Asean+3 Ministers of Health meeting to be held in September in Bali.
Once endorsed, it will become the plan of action for the whole of Asean+3 in terms of laboratory work and surveillance, he said after the opening of the RM23mil public health laboratory by the Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah in Jelapang here yesterday.
Also present was the Raja Permaisuri Perak Tuanku Bainun and state Health, Science, Technology and Environment Committee chairman Datuk Ho Cheng Wang, who represented the Mentri Besar.
Chua said matters such as which laboratories would be part of the network, who the experts would be and the areas of expertise involved were also discussed during the meeting in Penang.
The regional networking system and co-operation, he added, were important becausee new viruses were emerging every year with an average of one virus per year in the last three years.
SARS affected 9,000 people and killed about 800 people, mostly from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, he said, adding that the networking will also help countries, weak in fighting dangerous diseases.
In Penang, Health Ministry disease control director Dr Shafie Ooyub said the draft plan of action was to facilitate rapid regional response to epidemics and pandemics based on the experience learned during the SARS outbreak.
In future, we want to be better prepared to tackle outbreaks of emerging and re-merging contagious diseases.
For this, we need a comprehensive epidemiological surveillance programme to facilitate rapid response, he said.