Laboratory confirmation points to both old and new isolates of
the bird flu virus as sources of recent HPAI outbreaks in Southeast
Asia, says FAO.
Vigorous implementation of recommended control measures is needed
to prevent a further spread of the disease and sustain past successes
in the region, the Organization warned.
Concerned about the recurrence of bird flu in Asia, close monitoring
of diagnostic results by FAO has revealed that bird flu is endemic
in some areas while new strains have emerged in other places.
“Last month’s HPAI outbreak in Thailand’s Pichit
province was caused by the same virus strain circulating in the
area since 2003/4. The H5N1 virus thus remained alive in central
Thailand in a reservoir of birds and poultry, most probably a mix
of backyard chicken, ducks and fighting cocks,” said Laurence
Gleeson, regional manager of FAO’s bird flu centre in Bangkok
H5N1 endemic in Thailand's Pichit province
This indicates that the H5N1 virus is endemic in the area. While
the number and size of outbreaks has been reduced, past control
efforts were only partly successful.
On the other hand, the outbreaks in Nakhon Phanom and Vientiane
were caused by a H5N1 virus strain previously not detected in Thailand
and Laos. Instead, the virus is similar to recent isolates from
southern China, suggesting that the virus spread from China to
Thailand and Laos.
Risky cross-border trade continues
FAO recognizes that poultry trade across borders is continuing
in Southeast and East Asia despite well-known risks to the governments
and people in the region.
Countries are once more called upon to strengthen in-country as
well as cross-border HPAI control measures, FAO added. In addition,
regional HPAI networks need to be made stronger and sustainable
with national and international support.
Recent sharing of information, epidemiological analysis and joint
field missions to assess and control outbreaks in poultry have
resulted in a better understanding of the month-old resurgence
of bird flu in Asian countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.
Bird flu in Indonesia requires greater vigilance
“Continuing outbreaks in China, recurrence in Cambodia,
Laos and Thailand, and the steady march of the disease in Indonesia
underline the need for heightened vigilance in other Asian countries
to prevent and detect any resurgence or introduction of the deadly
bird flu virus. Timely reporting and sharing information continue
to be crucial,” warned He Changchui, FAO’s Regional
Representative for Asia and the Pacific.
The endemic presence of bird flu over the last three years coupled
with the proven inroads of new virus isolates into already affected
countries makes a redoubling of efforts at both national and regional
level essential, FAO noted.
Poorer countries most vulnerable
“We are at another critical juncture of fighting against
the bird flu situation in the region,” emphasized Mr He. “Some
countries can beat back occasional bird flu reoccurrence, but poorer
countries still need long-term work – and for that long-term
funding is an absolute necessity – to strengthen veterinary
services and build up transboundary animal disease containment
programmes,” he added.
Governments in the region and FAO are working to tackle the bird
flu problem at its source, but have so far only received a fraction
of the $308.5 million needed. So far, Japan, USAID and the Asian
Development Bank are the main donors in the region.
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