BIRD FLU: HELPING TO STOP THE DISEASE AT ITS SOURCE
FAO’s fight against avian influenza continues on an international scale
The continuous spread of the deadly avian influenza virus H5N1 in countries outside southeast Asia confirms that bird flu is an international problem that requires a global response. Impact figures are staggering even for a continent the size of Asia. Since the outbreak of the virus in 2003, more than 60 people died and more than 140 million birds have died or been destroyed.
Stopping the transmission of the virus in poultry is key to reducing risks to humans. FAO has been active in providing support to bird flu control efforts in infected countries and in assisting non-infected countries to prepare for a rapid and effective response should the disease become introduced.
TCP in Action
At the beginning of the outbreak in 2003, FAO together with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), sent experts to south-east Asia to help governments draw up emergency plans, provide technical advice in diagnosis of the disease and establish surveillance systems. FAO’s support was essentially channelled through the Technical Cooperation Programme. Since January 2004, nineteen TCP projects were launched for a total value of US$ 7,227,000. The first series of projects provided direct support to affected countries to help control the bird flu outbreaks through culling of infected animals and vaccination.
Regional TCP projects helped creating epidemiologic surveillance and diagnosis networks, upgrading the national disease information systems, improving veterinary services, preventing future outbreaks by improving emergency preparedness and, in the long run, helping rehabilitate the productive capacities of poultry producers after the influenza crisis.
With the disease now spreading to Europe, and putting the Middle-East and Africa at risk of infection, four regional projects have been approved in the fall of 2005 to support the veterinary services in these regions. The projects' aim is to strengthen the different regions' capacity for generating and sharing disease intelligence and help them to develop a control and prevention strategy.
Appeal for Funds
To follow-up on FAO/TCP action, funding is being sought from the international donor community. At this date more than US$6 million have been mobilised through FAO’s emergency programme and additional pledges for the amount of US$ 18 Million have been made. The Geneva global influenza meeting (9 November 2005) acknowledged that fighting the disease in animals is key to limiting the threat of a human pandemic and has identified key components of a global action plan. The World Bank estimates that the needs of affected countries will potentially reach US$ 1 billion over the next three years.
Avian flu crisis: FAO has helped affected countries with technical assistance, policy advice, coordination, equipment and training. Here Vietnamese animal health workers don protective clothing.