Despite the fact that the deadly H5N1 avian influenza virus, or
bird flu, has now been confirmed in 45 countries on three continents,
threatening human lives as well as livelihoods and depressing poultry
prices in many regions, efforts to combat the disease on poultry
farms are slowly proving successful on many fronts.
© FAO After
dying of avian flu or being culled, chicken carcasses are burned
at a farm in Viet Nam.
To date, the virus has killed 108 people, all in Asia. More than
200 million birds have died from the virus or through culling in
efforts to slow the spread of the disease, but vigorous response
to outbreaks in this region, particularly in Thailand, Viet Nam
and China, appears to have reduced the transmission of the disease
from poultry to humans, according to Joseph Domenech, Chief Veterinary
Vaccination campaigns, such as the one carried out in Viet Nam,
have also played an important role in helping some countries contain
the spread of the disease, and recognizing the need for owner compensation
schemes has not only helped alleviate economic hardship, it has
also encouraged timely reporting of new avian influenza outbreaks.
FAO in close collaboration with the World Organisation for Animal
Health (OIE) continues to urge governments to concentrate containment
efforts on the farm and emphasizes the role of human activity – trade
and markets – which are the main spreaders of the virus but
also are the areas that can be inspected, controlled and improved.
Where wild birds may introduce the virus, the Rome-based organization
says little can be done to control their movement but that action
should be taken to reduce the risk and prevent their contact with
“The need to keep domestic birds away from wild birds has
been widely recognized and efforts to do so have been implemented
in many countries,” said Domenech.
FAO and OIE are working to strengthen veterinary services in developing
countries to fight bird flu and face a large number of transboundary
animal diseases that threaten the livelihoods of people and even
In January this year, almost US$1.9 billion was pledged at a donor’s
conference in Beijing to support country, regional and global programmes
to combat bird flu. The conference produced a consensus that funding
would be balanced between animal and human health activities.
To fight the disease in the current situation, FAO said it needs
US$36 million over the next three years for global and regional
coordination. FAO also gives direct assistance to infected countries,
countries at risk and newly infected countries and this requires
additional support, which depends on the evolution of the situation
and the scale of the national proqrammes FAO is asked to implement.
FAO has so far received US$40 million and has signed agreements
with donors for an additional US$20 million, which is expected
to arrive soon.
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