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Asia-Pacific Nations Test Bird Flu Preparedness

Asian and Pacific nations have begun a disaster exercise to test preparations for a possible bird-flu pandemic.

Australia is coordinating Wednesday's exercise with 21 members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group, testing how authorities would respond to a hypothetical outbreak in which a new form of bird-flu virus becomes a major threat to human life.

During the 24-hour exercise, governments are practicing how to coordinate information about managing a virus outbreak. Indonesia and Vietnam already have suffered significant human losses from bird flu.

The World Health Organization is investigating the bird-flu deaths of seven members of one family in Indonesia, a "cluster" of infections that sounded an alarm about possible human-to-human transmission of the virus.

More than 120 people, most of them in Asia, have died of bird flu since late 2003.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.