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FAO in Myanmar

Better poultry production practices in Yangon Poultry Production Zones

Since 2007, multiple strains of Gs/GD/96-lineage H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus have entered Myanmar and caused reported outbreaks. The country is at risk for zoonotic avian influenza A (H7N9) virus incursion. Furthermore, active surveillance in live bird markets regularly detects H5N1 and H5N6 HPAI viruses and low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) H9N2 viruses.

Complex diseases require multifaceted and innovative approaches that tackle the problem and mitigate their risk from various aspects.   In Myanmar, the project, “Evidence-Based Risk Management Along the Livestock Production and Market Chain” works collaboratively between the Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department (LBVD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD). The project is supported by the United States Agency for International Development and the Australian Government.

Together they seek to better manage the avian influenza risk in the Myanmar poultry production sector.  The project addresses avian influenza risk reduction in Yangon poultry production zones (PPZ) and at national level.  In the PPZ it provides technical advice to poultry farmers on good production practices, and engages with the private sector for economic benefit. Nationally, it advises government stakeholders on evidence-based avian influenza prevention and control and vaccination policies.

Evidence-based policy support for avian influenza vaccination

Low pathogenic H9N2 avian influenza infection causes severe production and economic losses to poultry farmers and is a zoonotic threat. Poultry farmers in Myanmar have long requested the government to allow for avian influenza (H9N2) vaccination to protect their flocks. However, vaccination for avian influenza is not permitted by law in Myanmar.

A nationwide survey on H9 antibodies in chicken eggs was conducted to provide evidence on H9 avian influenza distribution. Six States/Regions in two survey rounds were sampled. Eggs were tested at the Mandalay and Yangon and Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories (VDL). All States/Regions had H9 antibody-positive eggs (range from 24% to 86%) providing strong evidence that H9 avian influenza viruses are widely distributed. The results of the survey support LBVD decision-making on avian influenza vaccination policy. Permitting vaccination can safeguard profitable  poultry production and decrease the risk of zoonotic transmission to humans. Therefore, an avian influenza policy workshop was conducted. Stakeholders from the private sector and LBVD officials discussed the pros and cons of implementing avian influenza vaccination in Myanmar.

Improving Biosecurity in Yangon Poultry Production Zones

Improving farm biosecurity is crucial to minimise the risk of avian influenza. While most poultry farmers in the Yangon PPZ are aware of biosecurity practices from past training, practical implementation is often neglected. The FAO ECTAD team developed a farm biosecurity grading scheme and assessed biosecurity standards in 15 poultry farms in Yangon PPZ.  Thereafter, biosecurity improvement action plans for each farm were developed.

Farm owners and staff were trained on biosecurity practices, proper use of disinfectants and early reporting and sample submission upon observation of sick poultry. In the final assessment conducted in February 2019, all participating farms had significantly improved in farm biosecurity.

“I am confident we have succeeded in conveying key biosecurity principles to the farmers which we hope they will apply in the future,” says Dr Kyi Mar Aung, FAO ECTAD national consultant for biosecurity.

Building zoonotic influenza preparedness and response capacity in Animal Health services

Myanmar’s capacity to respond to zoonotic influenza (including H7N9) is being strengthened through extensive revision of National Avian Influenza Contingency Plans. The new H7N9 control plan was tested in a table-top simulation exercise workshop that modelled zoonotic H7N9 outbreaks in live bird market (LBM) workers and surrounding poultry farms. A multi-stakeholder One Health approach was adopted with participants from LBVD, Public Health, city LBM administration, private sector and University of Veterinary Science. Participants were assigned roles in emergency response coordination, just as would happen in a real outbreak. The workshop agreed on priority H7N9 control actions with all stakeholders who would likely be involved in a real case scenario.

Dr Thant Nyi Lin, University of Veterinary Science, was very satisfied with the learning experience. “Simulation exercises are essential for emergency preparedness, and I am thankful for the opportunity to have participated in this enriching workshop.”