January 2004, Rome -- FAO today expressed serious concern about the spread
of Avian flu in East Asia.
"The disease seems to have a regional
dimension, with South Korea, Vietnam and Japan being affected in a short period
of time," FAO said in a statement.
"Possible links between
these outbreaks must be investigated. If there are such links, the epidemiological
reasons must be elucidated."
Vietnam declared an outbreak of Highly
Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 in the southern part of the country last week.
The Office International des Epizooties (OIE) in Paris, the World Health Organization
(WHO) and FAO were immediately informed.
Vietnam rapidly applied appropriate
control measures such as the killing of several hundred thousands of chickens,
disinfection, quarantine, control of animal movements, and general surveys.
Despite these measures, the situation continues
to give cause for concern, with possible new outbreaks in Vietnam, FAO said. In
addition, human cases of Avian flu have been confirmed.
is a very serious disease of domestic birds, particularly chickens and ducks.
It appears more and more frequently all over the world (in Hong Kong in 1997/98,
in the Netherlands and South-Korea in 2003).
The virus reservoir is the
bird wildlife and there is no method available to control it.
causes considerable economic losses, due to the bird mortality, mass killing of
domestic birds and other control measures. Outbreaks affect the livelihood of
thousands of farmers relying on chicken production.
Avian flu and
Avian flu rarely affects humans. To be contaminated, a direct
contact between humans and birds is needed. During an outbreak in Hong Kong in
1997, 6 deaths out of 18 cases occurred; in the Netherlands in 2003, 83 cases
occurred and one person died.
In Vietnam so far, the authorities have
declared 14 cases of severe respiratory disease in Hanoi, and 11 people have died.
Three of these cases were confirmed as Avian flu victims.
There is still
no evidence to date of human-to-human transmission but this matter has to be treated
very seriously, FAO said.
If the number of infected people increases,
the probability of a new virus strain evolving from an exchange between human
influenza and Avian flu genomes needs to be carefully examined.
To stamp out the disease, all infected animals have to
be killed. In addition, disinfection, quarantine and a ban on the movement of
domestic birds have to be put in place.
People working on farms or participating
in eradication programmes such as the culling of sick birds, should avoid close
contacts with the animals and should wear protective clothing.
sending an expert to Vietnam, as requested by the government, to join the WHO/FAO/OIE
expert team to investigate the problem and to set up necessary control and rehabilitation
On a long term basis, prevention relies on veterinary and human
health surveillance, including an early warning and a rapid response.
Information Officer, FAO
06 570 53105