FAO/OIE cautious about declaring victory over avian flu in Asia
Virus still not under control despite improvements -in-depth investigations are crucial
19 March 2004, Rome/Paris -- Asian countries that declare victory over avian influenza should base such statements on in-depth investigations, FAO and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) urged in a joint statement today.
OIE and FAO are ready to provide international experts to assess the epidemiological situation, the two organizations said.
"Collaboration between countries and the international community is essential to ensure that the avian influenza virus really is under control and that effective preventive and control measures have been put in place in each affected country and its neighbours," FAO and OIE said.
More than 3 months after the outbreak of avian influenza in several Asian countries, with 23 human deaths in Thailand and Viet Nam, the situation has improved in China, Thailand and Viet Nam, according to the two organizations.
Further outbreaks could flare up
"The crisis is still not over," FAO and OIE warned. "In countries such as Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, further outbreaks could still flare up. The virus could spread again within and between countries. As long as the H5N1 virus is not fully under control, the potential threat to human health remains."
All affected countries have designed national control campaigns according to their needs. "This is an important first-line of defence against the virus, which needs to be further strengthened," FAO and OIE said.
Precaution and biosecurity
In particular, appropriate precautionary measures have to be put in place to ensure that infected zones become free from infection and remain so. Before countries resume restocking, they must apply strong surveillance and biosecurity measures, to ensure that potential new infections are discovered and contained immediately, FAO and OIE said.
The absence of the virus has to be proved by virus search and serological surveys. In countries applying vaccination programmes, non-vaccinated susceptible chickens, so-called "sentinel animals", should be used. The movement of poultry and contaminated goods must be carefully monitored to avoid the reintroduction of the virus from affected areas. Contact between wild and domestic birds has to be minimised.
According to OIE international standards, countries can claim to be free from avian influenza under certain conditions and in any case six months after the occurrence of the last outbreak.
FAO and OIE also called for further investigation into how the epidemic started. "To avoid future outbreaks, we need a clear understanding of how the disease began."
Up to date, at least 100 million birds have died or have been culled to control the disease.
Information Officer, FAO
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