Global and regional
FAO is working with national authorities in China and the region as well as the international scientific community to support member country efforts to ensure preparedness for and response to this event. Areas of support include:
FAO collaborated with scientific experts from around the world to assess the risks posed by this event to member countries. Risk assessment activities included the preparation of a global risk assessment document and support to member countries in producing national risk assessments. The output of these activities filtered into improved surveillance options for enhanced risk management actions. An FAO risk assessment summary is available.
FAO developed risk management options for national authorities to utilize when deciding how to address H7N9 in their countries. FAO also assisted member countries with updating their animal disease contingency plans. These options included short- and medium-term control interventions and their ramifications along the poultry value chain. FAO risk management guidelines are available.
FAO increased support to member countries in the region by preparing updated guidance on surveillance. Building on lessons learned from past animal influenza events, FAO adapted these guidelines to the novel avian influenza A(H7N9) virus. FAO surveillance guidelines are available.
Laboratory and diagnostics
As part of the OIE/FAO Network of Expertise on Animal Influenza (OFFLU), FAO experts analysed genetic sequences to determine virus characteristics, including susceptibility to antivirals (e.g. Tamiflu) and mammalian adaption. Under OFFLU, FAO also gathered information from reference laboratories on laboratory protocols for virus detection (see Diagnostic Tests). FAO Laboratory protocols and algorithms are available.
FAO Reference Centres and FAO national and regional offices worked on providing specific diagnostic tools to the region. FAO developed these tools to help authorities more readily detect this virus, thereby improving the efficacy of surveillance activities. In addition, FAO planned to provide procurement guidance so laboratories in the region can ensure they have the equipment and materials necessary to detect the virus. FAO reference centres are providing positive control material (e.g. inactivated H7N9 virus) to laboratories in the region.
FAO also gathered data on how the virus is behaving in various animal species. Areas of investigation included clinical signs (i.e. pathogenicity), virus shedding and virus transmission. FAO advised on appropriate serological tests to be implemented to uncover previous or current presence of the virus in order to target surveillance activities in specific areas (e.g. markets and farms).
FAO is coordinating efforts with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organization (WHO). As the lead United Nations (UN) agency on animal influenza, FAO is working closely with the Office of the UN System Influenza Coordination (UNSIC).
The FAO office in China has established an incident coordination team and is linking with Chinese veterinary authorities to provide technical expertise. As a first activity, the FAO team is working with local authorities to implement a market chain analysis combined with risk-based surveillance. This includes the analysis of poultry trade routes, in hopes of better understanding possible virus movement through poultry trading.