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SERBIA - Regional Workshop

Current Knowledge and Approaches to Surveillance in the Balkan Region
24-27 September 2007 - Belgrade

This capacity workshop titled Wild Birds and Avian Influenza: Current Knowledge and Approaches to Surveillance in the Balkan Region was implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – EMPRES Wildlife Unit  and held in Belgrade, Serbia  from September 24 to 27 of 2007. A total of 26 participants attended the training from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia including veterinarians,  wildlife biologists and ornithologists. Co-instructors were Marko Rakovic (Serbian ornithologist) and Tisa Causevic (FAO National Veterinarian). The workshop’s purpose was provide current knowledge on the status and role of wild birds in the spread of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 (HPAI). Training included both a class room and field component. 

During the classroom sessions technical presentations were made on the global 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.

Participants also had opportunity to actively participate in simulation exercises on HPAI H5N1 outbreak investigation in which wildlife and animal health experts worked together to find most relevant and appropriate algorithm of actions in responding to proposed outbreak scenarios- some involving wildlife and others poultry. Working groups also identified national and regional priorities and needs for the follow-up activities from both national and regional perspectives.

Group discussions included how to perform a farm outbreak investigation (addressing the wildlife-agriculture interface), how to ensure high quality sampling, sample preservation and transportation. Also discussed was the need to 1) include wildlife components to all surveillance programs  2) include a ornithologist  in the standard team that responds to both poultry farm outbreaks and wild bird mortality event investigations, and 3) the importance of making sure that these wild bird issues are included in National HPAI H5N1 Preparedness and Response Plans.

The field portion of the course took place at Rusanda Lake where wild birds were captured using mist nets and the use of mist nets and walk in traps was demonstrated.  Demonstrations of bird counting and monitoring techniques were performed and species identification activities were undertaken using spotting scopes and binoculars. Using live birds, bird handling, cloacal and tracheal swabbing, and other sample collection methods were demonstrated and participants were trained on these techniques. Proper donning and doffing of personal protective equipment (PPE) was demonstrated and practiced in the field.

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