Fighting the disease in animals is crucial to win the battle against
The avian influenza virus could become entrenched
in the Black Sea, Caucasus and Near East regions through trade and movement of
people and animals and it could be further spread by migratory birds particularly
coming from Africa in the spring, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
"FAO is concerned that with trade, the movement of people
and animals and migratory birds, new countries could become infected," said
FAO Deputy Director-General David Harcharik in his opening speech
at the International Pledging Conference on Avian and Human Pandemic
Influenza in Bejing, China.
"Countries in Africa deserve special attention. In Turkey,
the virus has already reached the crossroads of Asia, Europe and
Africa, and there is a real risk of further spread. If it were
to become rooted in the African countryside, the consequences for
a continent already devastated by hunger and poverty could be truly
catastrophic," Harcharik said.
In endemic areas, the movements of animals, products and people
should be controlled. FAO also urged all countries along the routes
of migratory birds to be highly vigilant and be prepared for a
further spread of the disease in animals.
Fighting the virus in animals
"Fighting the avian influenza virus in animals is the most
effective and cost-effective way to reduce the likelihood of H5N1
mutating or reassorting to cause a human flu pandemic," Harcharik
said. "Containing bird flu in domestic animals - mostly chickens
and ducks - will significantly reduce the risk to humans. Avian
influenza should not only be considered as a human health issue,
but as a human and animal health issue."
"Such a perception requires close cooperation between health
and agricultural and veterinary authorities. Countries that foster
close collaboration between the human health and agricultural sectors
are likely to be the most successful in battling the disease," Harcharik
said. Centrally organised veterinary services are essential for
successful bird flu control campaigns.
"Governments will fail in combating avian influenza if they
don't give their veterinary services the political support as well
as the technical and financial means to fight the virus. Early
warning systems, swift interventions and preventive measures will
remain weak and inadequate without strong, centrally organized
veterinary services, " Harcharik said.
Improved surveillance and detection will allow farmers and veterinary
services to intervene quickly and apply the internationally recommended
set of actions, such as culling, biosecurity measures and vaccination.
Risky farming practices such as mixing poultry species in farms
or in live markets, should be changed as quickly as possible. The
impact of these changes on the livelihoods of small farmers should
be mitigated. The movements of animals, products and people from
endemic areas to other regions should be strictly controlled.
"Funding will be needed for compensation schemes for farmers
to encourage their participation in control campaigns," Harcharik
For the global campaign, it is estimated that several hundred
million dollars will be needed to combat the disease in animals.
FAO plays a major role in this campaign.
To date, FAO has received about $28 million from donors, and since
the onset of the bird flu crisis in 2003 the agency has spent more
than $7 million from its own resources to help affected countries
to design bird flu control programmes, supporting surveillance
and laboratory diagnostics. Socio-economic studies on the impact
of the disease and the cost of control programmes, as well as on
options for restructuring, have been carried out.
Over the next three years, FAO will require at least $50 million
more to continue its support for essential regional and global
coordination and cooperation and some $80 million to assist countries
to implement their national bird flu control programmes.
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