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Prevention of infectious diseases in poultry industry: FAO perspective

Photo: © Igor Glazkov; Collage: © FAO | Vladimir Mikheev

The current challenges to poultry farming and poultry industry are as grave as they are numerous. For instance, the viruses of avian influenza, better known as avian flu or bird flu, are diversifying and currently there are more subtypes co-circulating than ever. Among others, this issue was the focus of an International conference devoted to “Topical issues of diagnosis and prevention of infectious diseases of birds in poultry industry”, held in the ancient Russian town of Suzdal.  

Representatives of the academic community and veterinary physicians from poultry farms from across the Russian Federation and CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries attended the forum.

“Influenza viruses are very unpredictable as they genetically evolve and can adapt to new species and/ or become more virulent very quickly. The big fear is that an avian influenza virus could adapt to humans, be able to transmit from human to human and be highly virulent or even lethal,”Eran Raizman, FAO Senior Animal Health Officer, FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, sounded the alarm bell in his speech at the conference.

“The stamping out of first introductions may be successful only if a good compensation policy is in place. However, if the virus gets established or becomes endemic, or a country repeatedly experiences frequent introductions through wild birds, vaccination should be considered,” FAO expert intoned.

“Vaccination, however, is very complex and if not done adequately it can actually contribute to the spread of the disease by vaccinators or the creation of new virulent strains! Further, countries need, in case of adopting a vaccination strategy, an exit strategy as how to cease vaccination,” Eran Raizman warned.

At the same time, it is not all doom and gloom. Senior Animal Health Officer took the chance to congratulate the Russian Federation on the part of FAO “for making the wild bird surveillance results in Lake Ubsu Nur publicly available so quickly in 2016. This marked the first time the H5N8 HPAI virus had been detected outside Asia and provided the opportunity to warn Europe and Africa about potential invasion, which eventually happened 3 months later.”

FAO has taken stock and analyzed several troubling global trends in livestock health and performance maintenance.  “Immigration to cities of particularly the young generation that look for modern opportunities, leave behind aging small holder farmers that use traditional production systems, with low production outputs and low profitability,” Aghasi Harutyunyan, Officer-in-Charge for FAO’s Liasion office with the Russian Federation, outlined one of the problems in his speech.

“As low investment farms, their biosecurity is very low and hence allow the spread of diseases. Once again, African Swine Fever (ASF) is a good example. This aging population of small holder farmers will not be continued by their kids and hence slowly slowly they are disappearing. In parallel, there is intensification of large farms with high production animals where “show me the money” plays a major role in driving this kind of business.”

Moreover, “in many countries, lack of appropriate environmental protection policies cause these farms to be an environmental burden if not threat.  Disease outbreak in these farms can have devastating economic consequences to the national economy,” Aghasi Harutyunyan noted.