Forecasting the spread of avian influenza from Asia

Forecasting the spread of avian influenza from Asia


In September 2016, FAO issued a warning to countries west and south of Russia’s Tyva Republic, where a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza had been detected. The virus had been found in wild birds visiting a lake on a major migratory path.

FAO advised relevant governments to increase surveillance for 6 to 12 months. Clear recommendations were made to report and investigate all dead birds, ensure means of laboratory testing, and increase biosecurity measures, including separating poultry from wild birds. FAO also provided best practice guidelines for hunters and consumers.

FAO convened a global webinar in November 2016, during which 30 countries discussed the latest outbreaks, forecasts and expert recommendations. This triggered preparatory actions throughout 2017 and increased understanding of the situation’s complexity, which assisted governments communicating with stakeholders and the media.

Governments and animal health workers were ready when the virus appeared in December 2016 and early 2017, in the areas where FAO had forecasted. For example, Sierra Leone’s livestock division revised its avian influenza preparedness and response plans, and Senegal’s veterinary services carried out testing of migratory birds in national parks. In Belgium, a veterinarian raised the alarm when she identified the country’s first case in a pet bird, and Sweden enforced biosecurity measures in its poultry industry.

FAO continues to monitor and analyse this ongoing situation. Regular updates and recommendations, as well as technical assistance are provided to stakeholders in order to stay one step ahead of this evolving threat.