“H5N1 avian influenza virus will continue to spread” United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today said H5N1 avian influenza virus is entrenched in some places and will continue to spread, despite improved control efforts.

Czech, German Bird Flu Have Same OriginAs if to underscore the message, new poultry outbreaks were reported today in the Czech Republic and Bangladesh, and more wild birds were reported infected in Germany.

Joseph Domenech, the FAO’s chief veterinary officer, said the response to the virus has improved significantly over the past 3 years, but it remains entrenched in several countries and will continue to spread, according to an FAO news release.

Domenech spoke at a press conference in Rome on the first day of the Technical Meeting on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza and Human H5N1 Infection, which continues through Jun 29. The meeting was organized by the FAO and several other international agencies.

He said that except in Egypt and Indonesia, human H5N1 cases have been very sporadic. “This achievement is the most important demonstration of the effects of worldwide efforts to contain the H5N1 virus,” he said.

In the approximately 15 countries in Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East where the virus has cropped up in the past 6 months, it was rapidly detected and eliminated or controlled, Domenech said.

“Most countries have been very open about new outbreaks,” he said. “They are better prepared today and have improved their response systems.”

But Domenech cited the recent H5N1 outbreaks in birds in Bangladesh, Ghana, Togo, the Czech Republic, and Germany as illustrations of the need to shun complacency. The threat of a human flu pandemic can’t be ruled out as long as the disease persists in poultry, he said.

He said containment and eradication of the virus will demand a long-term financial and political commitment, especially in the face of the “high risk poultry production and marketing practices that still continue in many countries.” For example, Indonesia has more than 13,000 live poultry markets where birds from different places are brought together.

Domenech also called for increased monitoring of the virus, especially in countries that vaccinate poultry.

“The H5N1 virus is not stable and keeps constantly changing. On one occasion in China last year a new virus strain appeared with different immunologic characteristics which made it necessary to modify vaccines used in the region concerned,” he said. “This emergence of a new strain may have happened again more recently in Indonesia.”

Here is the link to the full article by CIDRAP:

http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/influenza/avianflu/news/jun2707fao.html

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Get Ready for a Bird-Flu outbreak “or it may be too late” says the Irish Agriculture Minister.

The Irish Agriculture Minister Mary Coughlan warned today, that Ireland must be in state of readiness for a potential outbreak of bird flu here, after reports of incidences of the H5N1 strain of the virus in both Germany and the Czech Republic in recent days.

Mary Upton TD“Ireland must be in a state of high alert” she said, adding that a number of immediate steps must be taken by the Government to reassure the public that everything possible is being done to prepare for the arrival of avian flu.

The Irish Agriculture Minister reminded us that “..this virus respects no borders and the need for extreme vigilance and all measures necessary to prevent its spread to Ireland is the immediate priority. This must include increased surveillance at ports and airports”.”We must carry out an immediate emergency simulation of how the country will deal with the arrival of bird flu. We should establish a biosecurity unit without further delay so that we can handle and contain the virus when and if it arrives.” said the Minister. 

She suggested that an overall figurehead should be appointed immediately to co-ordinate the national response to the threat.

Minister Coughlan added a chilling note to her speech by saying:

“If the Government procrastinates, it may be too late. By that time the virus will have made the short journey to Ireland and we will be in the midst of a national crisis.” 

http://www.labour.ie/press/listing/1183109717748547.html