Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

High geographic concentration of animals may have favoured the spread of avian flu

28 Jan 2004 -- Around 25 million birds culled – international assistance needed

Bangkok - The spread of avian influenza from Pakistan to China may have been facilitated by the dramatic scaling up of pig and poultry production and a massive geographic concentration of livestock in China, Thailand and Viet Nam, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today. The poultry sector may need to be substantially restructured.

So far, over 25 million birds have been killed in the campaign against avian flu.

“The impact on local communities, small farmers and commercial poultry operations is devastating, and will be worsened if further culling is required,” said He Changchui, Head of the FAO Regional Office for Asia, at a meeting of international health and agriculture officials in Bangkok today.

“The presence of avian influenza prohibits all affected countries from exporting fresh and frozen poultry products, which particularly hurts Thailand as the fourth largest exporting country. Consumer confidence is shattered and may well lead to a public health scare that may also disrupt tourism, which is of significant importance to the region,” he said.

Emergency operations need the full commitment of governments, veterinary services, chicken producers and animal traders. The costs involved are substantial and international assistance to needy countries is necessary.

“It is essential that compensation and assistance is provided to producers, in particular to small framers who are dependent on a daily income from selling their poultry products,” He Changchui said.

FAO stressed again that in affected areas animal movements need to be immediately restricted; infected poultry houses need to be disinfected, kept idle for at least 21 days and neighboring farms need to be closely surveilled.

Close monitoring will need to determine when the outbreak can be declared over according to international standards, so that production can resume.

Poultry sector may need to be restructured

“Often, high densities of humans and animals coincide, creating new pathways for disease transmission through inappropriate waste disposal, direct contact or through air-borne transmission,” according to Mr. He Changchui.

“This may give rise to newly emerging diseases and is a threat to human and animal health.”

Of great concern is also the marketing of life chicken allowing an easy spread of the H5N1 virus during transportation or when taking birds, cages or other equipment back to the farm.

The crisis suggests that the Asian poultry sector may need substantial restructuring, FAO said.

There is a need for good agricultural practices - from farm to the table - and for healthy farming systems, which lead to more food safety and better bio-security.

Livestock production should be based on a pro-poor and environmentally friendly approach. It should be integrated into national poverty and food insecurity alleviation programmes.

RAP 04/03

More information at: