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FAO and African Union sign Memorandum of Understanding to control avian influenza H7N9 spread

07/08/2013 1:00 - 

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, August 06. 2013 – A new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between FAO and the African Union Commission (AUC) signed today will help to prevent and control outbreaks of influenza A (H7N9), better known as avian influenza.

The signing ceremony was held in the presence of Her Excellency Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the AUC and Dr. Modibo Traore, FAO Representative to the African Union and to the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Subregional Coordinator for Eastern Africa and FAO Representative in Ethiopia.

During the signing ceremony both institutions agreed, under the project “Emergency support to global and coordinated response to influenza A (H7N9) virus in poultry and other animal populations”, to step up their collaboration in preventing, controlling and mitigating the potentially harming socio-economic consequences on poultry population, human health and livelihoods of an influenza A (H7N9) outbreak on the continent. 

Modibo Traore specified that the in-built technical support component of the project will provide additional capacity to the AU in preventing and mitigating this growing threat. It also contributes to the implementation of emergency support and coordinated response mechanisms to influenza A (H7N9) virus at continental level, ultimately preventing the virus to spread in Africa.

 About the project

FAO’s support will strengthen the national capacities for quick response to the new avian influenza crisis. It will, among others, help develop the capacities of international and regional organizations as well as other agencies and national governments.

The project will foster partnerships among key stakeholders and link to other initiatives in the affected regions to further improve disease control mechanisms.  It will also play a catalytic role in filling the funding gap by attracting additional donors’ contributions to enhance countries capacity to face the H7N9 crisis.

H7N9, a serotype of the species Influenza virus A was first reported to have infected humans in February 2013 in China. The priority activities, under this TCP, will be to target at-risk countries including those previously infested with bird flu (HPAI), notably Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote D'Ivoire and Cameroon and those having close trade ties and flight connections with China particularly, Kenya, Zambia, DRC, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Senegal.

Since the outbreak of the panzootic H5N1 HPAI, FAO established ECTAD to coordinate and deliver FAO’s support to member countries in their efforts to respond to trans-boundary animal health crises at the sub-regional level, and to support disease control efforts in infected countries and preparedness activities in other parts of the world. 

 About the H7N9 Influenza

H7N9 is a new subtype of avian influenza virus. The current H7N9 virus is a reassortant (i.e. mix) of viruses previously detected in wild birds and poultry. The recent event in China represents the first ever report of H7N9 virus affecting humans. According to WHO, patients with this infection have had severe pneumonia. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. However, information is still limited about the full spectrum of clinical signs due to infection with the H7N9 virus.

FAO and the scientific community are currently studying the virus sequences to understand its properties and deliver diagnostics capable of detecting this new strain of influenza virus.

FAO has set up a website for H7N9 and has posted guidelines for surveillance, risk assessment and risk management for avian influenza A(H7N9) for affected and at risk countries.

Submitted by: Tewodros Negash