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Russia drafts anti-bird flu program for G8 summit


NOVOSIBIRSK, June 16 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has developed a program of preventive measures against bird flu for the G8 summit starting on July 15, Russia's chief doctor said Friday.

Health care will be one of the prominent themes of the St. Petersburg summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations this year, as the disease has spread worldwide since it was first spotted in Asia in 2003. Russia has started trials of a vaccine amid fears that the virus could mutate into a form that passes between humans and spark a global pandemic.

"The government adopted a resolution on June 5 to allocate extra funds to the Vektor research center," Gennady Onishchenko said, adding that the Siberia-based organization was to be turned into an institute for monitoring the spread of influenza, including avian flu.

Although no human lives have been claimed in Russia, figures made public in April indicated that around 1.1 million birds had died of the disease and 300,000 had been culled to control the spread of the virus since the beginning of February.

Onishchenko said the center in Novosibirsk could make use of abundant human resources, as it neighbored a medical university, and would survey both Central Asia and eastern Europe.

The health official said the risk of any infection spreading from Southeast Asia to Siberia was higher than in any other region because of very close human and economic contacts.

He added that the center was also participating in a G8 project to develop an HIV vaccine.

The leaders of Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan will be in St. Petersburg until July 17.

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