11 Mar 2004 -- Virus could still be circulating – strict precautionary measures required
Rome – Countries affected by the deadly avian influenza virus H5N1 should not restock their flocks too quickly to avoid the disease flaring up again, FAO warned today.
Two months after the outbreak of the epidemic some countries are already planning to declare selected zones disease-free and to restock decimated flocks, FAO said.
"In the battle against the disease, there are definitely some improvements. But we fear that the virus may continue to circulate in the environment even without an outbreak or any clinical signs in animals," said Joseph Domenech, Chief of the Animal Health Service.
"Appropriate precautionary measures have to be put in place to be absolutely sure that infected zones are free from infection and will remain free," he added.
Before restocking, countries must:
• prove the absence of virus circulation by virus research, serological surveys and the use of non-vaccinated susceptible chickens (so-called sentinels) on infected sites to test if they become infected;
• monitor the movement of poultry and contaminated goods to avoid the reintroduction of the virus from affected areas;
• prevent contact between domestic and wild birds;
• apply intensive disease surveillance to ensure potential new infections are discovered immediately.
If countries want to resume exports they have to prove that they are free from avian influenza. Their status will be verified by independent international experts.
FAO said that in some countries more information about the spread of the disease should be made available to the international community.
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