Avian Influenza in 2011: Mid-Year Review
14 July 2011 - Data available within the World Animal Health Information Database (WAHID) indicate that up to 12 July 2011 a total of thirteen  countries have submitted immediate notification and follow-up reports of outbreaks of H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N1 HPAI) in animals to the Paris-based World Animal Health Organisation (OIE). Affected countries include Bangladesh, Cambodia, China [Hong Kong S.A.R.], Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mongolia, Myanmar, the Palestinian Autonomous Territories [West Bank], and Viet Nam. So far in 2011, 46 confirmed human cases of H5N1 HPAI have been reported to the World Health Organization (WHO), of these 23 have died.
A recently-released paper by the Animal Production and Health Division (AGA) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) titled Approaches to controlling, preventing, and eliminating H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in endemic countries, notes that in at least six  countries in Asia and Africa—The People’s Republic of China in East Asia, Viet Nam in the Greater Mekong sub-region, Indonesia in Southeast Asia, Bangladesh and India in the Indo-Gangetic Plain, and Egypt in North Africa—H5N1 HPAI remains entrenched, and these countries are considered endemic for the disease.
In response to these evolving situations, for instance, FAO is collaborating with the Ministry of Agriculture of Indonesia and private sector market-traders to initiate a cleaning and disinfection program for poultry transport vehicles at collector yards. By reducing viral contamination on empty poultry transport trucks leaving the collector yard, the risk of virus spread from farm to farm via collector yard should, in theory, be reduced. FAO has also supported the local governments in the greater Jakarta area to improve sanitation and hygiene in live bird markets in and around the city. By maintaining cleaner market environments where live birds are displayed to consumers, it is expected that the risk of virus spread to humans will be reduced.
Also, as part of FAO’s robust disease foresight capabilities, veterinary epidemiologists at the Emergency and Prevention Systems (EMPRES) point out that, during the last three years, in Southeast Asia there has been an upward trend in the number of outbreaks of H5N1 HPAI which suggests that rapid disease dynamics are very much part of the economic, social, and cultural background of the region. In terms of human cases of H5N1 HPAI, they concur with WHO datasets indicating that Egypt and Indonesia are disease hotspots.
In infected countries H5N1 HPAI is a feared a viral disease not only because it is highly lethal to susceptible bird flocks, but also because it is transmissible to humans. Infected birds shed the virus in fecal and oculo-nasal discharges. Humans (especially children, cooks, handlers, and caregivers) that are in direct contact with infected materials are at increased risk of contracting the disease. There is, at this moment, no effective treatment for avian influenza. However, good husbandry, proper nutrition, and broad spectrum antibiotics may reduce losses from secondary infections.
Disease prevention is key to reducing the risk of disease entry and spread. Generally speaking, a targeted vaccination program, in conjunction with strict quarantine, has been used to control mild forms of the disease in commercial chicken and turkey flocks. With the more lethal forms of the disease, however, strict quarantine and rapid depopulation of infected flocks remains the only effective methods of stopping H5N1 HPAI. The success of prevention and control programs depend, of course, on the full cooperation and support of farmers, poultry and associated industries, and governments.
It is worth mentioning that the multiple experiences with H5N1 HPAI have enabled FAO to prevent other detrimental animal diseases which affect livelihoods, food security, and human health. To this effect, in mid 2011, AGA released the 4th Report on the Global Programme for the Prevention and Control of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza [covering the activities from January to December 2010], which highlights the achievements and directions in combating H5N1 HPAI, animal diseases which have an impact on livelihoods and food security, and in the case of zoonotic diseases, those which threaten human health.
FAO of the UN is an institutional partner of World Veterinary Year (Vet2011) and has recently adopted a resolution declaring Global Freedom from Rinderpest.