April 27 2009, Rome - The FAO-OIE Crisis Management Centre – Animal Health is mobilizing a team of experts to assist government efforts to protect the pig sector from the novel H1N1 virus by confirming there is no direct link to pigs, increasing animal disease surveillance and maintaining response readiness should the new virus become introduced into the pig population.
The UN agency has also requested its technical staff around the world be on full alert, immediately report any influenza-like illness in swine stocks and forward specimens to FAO/OIE reference laboratories.
At present, transmission seems to be occurring solely from humans to humans; so far evidence that the new strain of influenza A virus has entered the human population directly from pigs has not been established. Further analysis is planned to gain better insight into the situation.
No food chain threat
“There is no evidence of a threat to the food chain; at this stage it is a human crisis and not an animal crisis, but we have to be alerted and prepared,” said FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Joseph Domenech.
“The first actions FAO and others must take are to ascertain if the new strain is circulating in pigs, establish if there are any direct linkages between the illness in the human population and animals and explain how this new virus has obtained genetic materials from human, bird and pig influenza strains,” he said.
Governments urged to step up surveillance
FAO is working in close coordination with the World Health Organisation and OIE and other national and international actors involved at all stages of the organization’s operations to ensure maximum efficiency in this worrying turn of events.
FAO urges Governments and the international community to step up disease surveillance in swine.