This workshop titled Wild Birds and Avian Influenza: Current Knowledge and Approaches to Surveillance in the Middle East and North Africa Regions was held in at the Azraq reserve in Jordan from November 12 to 15 of 2007. A total of 24 participants from 11 countries (Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Nigeria, Palestine, Syria, Uganda and Yemen) attended the workshop. Country delegates included both agriculture and wildlife officials employed by their respective governments.
The workshop was organised and implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization – EMPRES Wildlife Unit in close collaboration with the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature – Jordan.
During the classroom sessions technical presentations were made on the global Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 situation and FAO programmes and networks in HPAI H5N1 control as well as the most recent findings in the field of HPAI H5N1 ecology and the role of wild birds. Participants were also informed on FAO wildlife activities and results of global surveillance in wildlife to-date. Other major topics covered by presentations of FAO experts included basic information on bird migration and ecology, principles of epidemiology and surveillance in wildlife, identification of water birds, census and monitoring of water birds, capture techniques for wild birds, sampling wild birds and assuring good quality field operation, personal protective equipment and biosecurity in the field.
Group discussions included how to perform a farm outbreak investigation (addressing the wildlife-agriculture interface) in a varied scenario of farm settings, the epidemiological questions and issues to address, how to ensure high quality sampling and sample preservation and transportation. We also discussed the need to include wildlife components in all surveillance programs and a wildlife person in the standard team that responds to both poultry farm outbreaks and bird mortality event investigations. The importance of making sure that these wildlife issues are included in National Avian Influenza Preparedness and Response Plans was emphasized.
During the field portion of the course demonstrations of bird counting and monitoring techniques were performed and species identification activities were undertaken using spotting scopes and binoculars. The use of mist nets and walk in traps was demonstrated. Captured live birds (mostly passerines) were used to demonstrate bird handling, cloacal and tracheal swabbing, and other sample collection methods.
A special section of the workshop was dedicated to country reports in which each national delegation provided information on wildlife and Avian Influenza in their respective countries. In this way a lot of useful information was made available to participants stimulating further discussions and sharing of information on HPAI H5N1 prevention and control.