Avian flu remains global threat, cautions UN
Despite advances in controlling the virus, recent avian influenza outbreaks in more than one dozen countries reveal that it is still a global threat, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today.
“Globally, much progress has been achieved in keeping the H5N1 avian influenza virus under control,” said Joseph Domenech, FAO’s Chief Veterinary Officer, noting that great strides have been made in the past three years.
Surveillance, early detection and immediate response efforts have been bolstered and many countries have been able to eliminate avian flu from poultry, he said.
However, since last month, 15 countries – Bangladesh, Benin, China, Egypt, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Myanmar, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and Viet Nam – have confirmed new outbreaks in poultry, mostly in domestic stocks.
“The H5N1 avian influenza crisis is far from over and remains particularly worrying in Indonesia, Bangladesh and Egypt, where the virus has become deeply entrenched despite major control efforts,” Dr. Domenech said.
He also cautioned that while H5N1 has not become more contagious to humans, “it could still trigger a human influenza pandemic.”
In Indonesia, one of the countries hit hardest by avian flu, 31 of 33 provinces have been infected since 2004, many of them heavily. More investigations and better poultry vaccines are needed to fully protect poultry from the virus, FAO said, and the agency is working with the Government to implement a programme to monitor H5N1.
In Bangladesh, nearly one-third of the districts have been infected, and the disease appears to be endemic. FAO said it is strengthening its presence to help the country bring avian flu under control.
Dr. Domenech said that reporting of new outbreaks, disinfection, culling, movement control and farm bio-security must be stepped up in Egypt.
He also observed that a potential change of virus strains needs to be investigated further, and FAO is supporting the Government’s detection, control and communication measures.
With the help of FAO, over 50 countries have been able to bring avian flu under control and eliminate it from poultry.