1 Nov 2005

Australia warns readiness key to averting bird flu epidemic

8:23 am on 1 November 2005

The Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, says the region has got to be ready should bird flu spread to Oceania.

Mr Downer was speaking on the sidelines of a 21 country avian influenza summit in Brisbane.

He says the greatest challenge is to make sure identification is speedy and effective.

Mr Downer says any attempt at a cover-up would be a true human catastrophe in the event that the virus mutated and spread between humans.

The meeting is considering issues such as border closures, antiviral drugs and how to maintain essential services during an outbreak.