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Preventing and controlling Avian flu
2:01pm Monday 25th June 2012 in News
The size of the global poultry industry has more than doubled in the last 20 years in developed and developing countries due to demand from increasingly affluent consumers.
This growth has been enabled by “improvements” in the industry in genetics, nutrition, growing methods, processing and marketing. However, intensification of poultry production renders the industry more susceptible to threats of poultry diseases which in some cases can affect human health.
Since a new variant of H5N1 HPAI virus first emerged in East Asia in 1996, more than 17,000 poultry outbreaks affecting 62 countries have been reported. During the course of this sustained avian pandemic, millions of chickens, ducks and other poultry have been culled, at considerable cost and disruption to farmers and consumers.
Over the past ten years, more than 300 million poultry have been culled globally due to H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza. In addition, of the 602 human cases to-date, almost 60 per cent of those have proven fatal. Avian flu has dropped out of the news in the UK in recent years, but health agencies know that we should not be complacent. There have been continuing outbreaks in the Far East and also closer to home within Europe. Not all of these have been HPAI, but LPAI (low pathogenic avian influenza) is also regarded as damaging in the poultry industry, and affected flocks are always destroyed.
Hosted in Vietnam, nine countries opened a three-day conference, April 2012, to discuss how to improve methods to prevent and control avian influenza amid continuing outbreaks, especially in Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Indonesia and Vietnam. This is especially important because of the evolution and geographic spread of new viral strains.
In the past few years, a newer variant of the H5N1 virus has expanded its geographic range from South East Asia to Eastern Europe, East Asia, and South Asia. Some variants of this type are different enough to render current vaccinations in poultry far less effective. Despite the fact that nearly all H5N1 human infections to date appear to have been the result of transmission of the virus from poultry to people, this virus is still considered a serious pandemic threat because of its continued presence in poultry in numerous countries, its tendency to quickly mutate and change, its ability to infect humans and its continuing high mortality rate. Given the public health, animal health and economic risks, it has become clear that in some countries, simply monitoring and controlling outbreaks in poultry is not enough. This conference will identify key directions for country efforts and continuing international cooperation and technical support for the coming period.