Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Avian flu: no need to kill wild birds

16 Jul 2004 -- Better biosecurity measures are essential for safer poultry production

Bangkok -- FAO has urged countries in Asia not to cull wild birds in response to recent outbreaks of avian influenza in China, Thailand and Viet Nam.

"Killing wild birds will not help to prevent or control avian influenza outbreaks," said Juan Lubroth of the FAO Animal Health Service. "Wild birds are an important element of the ecosystem and should not be destroyed."

Although it is recognized that certain species of water fowl can be a reservoir of avian influenza viruses, "to date, there is no scientific evidence that wildlife is the major factor in the resurgence of the disease in the region," he added.

Gaps in biosecurity

The major factors contributing to the spread of the avian influenza virus are poor hygienic practices related to the production, processing and marketing of poultry, contaminated products, gaps in biosecurity and individuals not following recommended control measures, FAO said.

"Hunting wild birds, some of which are listed as endangered, or cutting down trees to destroy roosting sites, is likely to disperse wild birds into new areas, stress them further and could make them susceptible to avian influenza or other diseases," said William Karesh of the Wildlife Conservation Society, based in New York.

Improved poultry coops and biosecurity measures to keep farm poultry, including ducks, from coming into contact with free-flying fowl can diminish the risk of disease spread.

Immediate reporting

If surveillance is improved and immediate reporting is strictly applied, starting from the villages, more pockets of infection and disease are bound to be detected at their early stage. This is the best way of dealing with avian influenza, FAO said.

Not declaring outbreaks of the disease will diminish the success of control measures and further delay restocking investments for poultry farmers or make them unsuccessful.

Emergency response plans should include the immediate destruction of affected poultry flocks using proper protective equipment and clothing following World Health Organization guidelines, and cleaning and disinfection of the premises.

Destroyed or dead birds should never be fed to other animals nor should their carcasses be sold. Markets and marketing patterns should be carefully monitored and samples collected for analysis.

RAP 04/28

More information at: