Bird flu likely to inflict ‘tremendous damage’ on poultry as longer-term threat – UN
Beyond the prospect of a human pandemic, the bird flu crisis is not only an immediate, short-term problem but is likely to be a continuing emergency that will last several years and inflict “tremendous damage” to bird populations, and domestic poultry in particular, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today.
“The rapid spread of the disease means that FAO now needs $308 million for its contribution to the global programme for the progressive control of avian influenza over the next three years – more than twice the sum required a few months ago,” the Rome-based Agency said in a statement. “To date, FAO has only received $71 million.”
The knock-on effect on the poultry sector is enormous and it could deal a significant blow to local, national and regional economies. FAO is concerned that international interest is focused almost exclusively on the possibility of bird flu hitting infecting humans to the neglect of its potentially devastating impact on animals, FAO’s Chief Veterinary Officer Joseph Domenech said.
This fails to recognize that the best way to protect people is to control and try to eradicate the disease in animals, he added.
To date well over 200 million birds have died or been culled to prevent the disease spreading since the current outbreak started in South-East Asia in December, 2003.
There have so far been 217 human cases, 123 of them fatal, ascribed to contact with infected birds, but experts fear the virus could mutate, gaining the ability to pass from person to person and, in a worst case scenario, unleashing a deadly human pandemic with the potential to kill millions.
Mr. Domenech said that at the local level smallholder families dependent on chickens and other poultry for sustenance or livelihood face the prospect of losing their animals through death or culling. In many countries, fear of infection is leading consumers to shy away from poultry, throwing the multimillion dollar industry into crisis.
FAO stresses that the international fight against bird flu must start with increased surveillance of poultry and other animals, followed by rapid reporting of any outbreaks and strict measures to limit its spread through culling, secure disposal of sick animals and the control of movements of animals and products.
It also urges farmers, traders, and all others in close contact with poultry to be particularly careful about basic hygienic standards and to tighten bio-security on the farm. The movement of poultry to and from markets, and of people involved in production and marketing, are the main spreaders of the disease to previously unaffected areas.