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FAO and DAH-MARD closely collaborates to safeguard livelihoods from influenza A(H7N9) virus


Hanoi. Viet Nam. Chinese officials have recently reported a drastic increase of Influenza A(H7N9) human cases in China, having more than 400 human cases during the past three months. Live bird markets remain the main venue of this virus spreading among poultry and from poultry to human. Since influenza A(H7N9) virus is not yet detected in Viet Nam, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Department of Animal Health (DAH), Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) are mobilizing extra resources and attention to prevent introduction and early detect influenza A(H7N9) along the northern border. Since influenza A(H7N9) does not cause clinical disease in chickens, infected chickens would appear to be healthy causing extra challenges in disease detection.

Following this objective, MARD organized the workshop ‘Implementation of measures to prevent A/H7N9 virus and other avian influenza viruses that are transmittable across the border’ at Lang Son Province in collaboration with the People’s committee of Lang Son Province. MARD Vice Minister Vu Van Tam, Vice chairman of Lang Son people’s committee Ly Vinh Quang jointly hosted this workshop to share Influenza A(H7N9), provide updates for the possible intrusion of the influenza A (H7N9) virus and to bring political commitment. This workshop was attended by representatives from the Central Government, ministries and their agencies, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), Sub-Department of Animal Health (Sub-DAH) and Department of Livestock Production (DLP) of 25 provinces and cities in the northern region; international organizations such as FAO, USCDC; and news agencies.

In order to prevent introduction and further spread of influenza A(H7N9), FAO recommended DAH and northern border provinces to prevent illegal poultry movement and poultry by-products, look for infected birds by collecting samples and testing both healthy and sick birds along poultry value chain, regular cleaning of live bird markets and provide clear communication message to the public. Provincial animal health authorities are also encouraged to coordinate with public health authorities to investigate poultry death in communities where severe viral pneumoniae patients are detected. Animal health workers should also follow preventive measures to protect themselves when working with either healthy or sick chickens since chickens infected with influenza A(H7N9) would appear to be healthy.

FAO and DAH-MARD’s 14 years of action to make Viet Nam safer from AI

Since 2004, the Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases of FAO Viet Nam has been supporting DAH to respond to outbreaks of Highly
Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1. Field epidemiology and laboratory diagnostic capacity built through the long collaboration have resulted in significant improvement in DAH ability to diagnose avian influenza and effectively control the spread of HPAI in Viet Nam. These capacities can also be used to reduce the risk of influenza A(H7N9) virus entering into the country and respond to the incursion should the virus be detected in Viet Nam. In close collaboration with the National Center for Veterinary Diagnostic and seven Regional Animal Health Offices, real-time surveillance for avian influenza including influenza A(H7N9) viruses is ongoing to ensure immediate detection of avian influenza viruses in Viet Nam. FAO and DAH regularly collect samples from provinces along the northern border, where there is the highest possibility of detecting influenza A(H7N9) virus.

Since the first detection of influenza A(H7N9) virus in 2013 in China, FAO and DAH have conducted table top exercises in Ha Noi and Lang Son Provinces for animal and human health officials to experience influenza A(H7N9) outbreak simulations beforehand and seek ways for better collaboration. Assessments of border control, hospital capacity and live bird markets at the bordering provinces were conducted jointly by animal and public health experts to make sure stakeholders are well prepared for possible intrusion of influenza A(H7N9) and respond as swiftly as possible to minimize its impact. Value chain studies on chicken and duck were also conducted to identify potential entry points where diseases could be introduced and potential spreading route.  “Since emergency situations happen at the most unexpected, preparation is key to effectively respond to a disease. Based on the improved animal health capacity through our long collaboration, we are confident that Viet Nam is well prepared in case of an emergence of a new virus and pandemic that could seriously affect people and livelihoods.” said Pawin Padungtod, the Senior Technical Coordinator of FAO Viet Nam.  

“Although influenza A(H7N9) virus has not been detected in Viet Nam, we are working hard to safeguard the borders from the virus and to promptly detect the virus in case it enters into the country. We would like to assure that resources, attention and commitment are put into from all stakeholders to keep the people of Viet Nam and livelihoods safe from this virus.” said Pham Van Dong, the Director General of DAH, MARD.  

Facts about avian influenza A (H7N9) virus:

•    This virus contains genetic segments from 3 avian sources; 1) the N9 portion from a wild bird reservoir, 2) H7 from domestic ducks in China similar to a strain isolated between 2010-2012, and 3) other internal genes most likely from domestic poultry in the region.
•    H7N9 is an influenza virus that has been spreading among poultry and infecting human beings in China since early 2013. To date, 22 February 2017, provinces in China have found the virus which has infected 1230 people and resulted in 428 deaths (a mortality rate of 40%)
•    Influenza viruses are not transmitted through consumption of well-cooked food. Influenza viruses are inactivated by normal temperatures used for cooking so if food reaches 70°C in all parts, it is safe to eat as long as it was properly prepared and cooked. However, FAO recommends not eating diseased animals or animals that may have died of disease.
•    According to WHO, there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission.
•    Active surveillance and transparent reporting of sick or dead birds to the local veterinary authorities for sampling is of utmost importance to increase the likelihood of detecting the presence of H7N9 in Viet Nam.
Recommended behaviors
•    Hand hygiene
-    Wash your hands before, during, and after you prepare food; before you eat; after you use the toilet; after handling animals or animal waste; when your hands are dirty; and before and after providing care to anyone in your home who is sick. Hand hygiene will also prevent the spread of infections to yourself (from touching contaminated surfaces) and in hospitals to patients, health care workers and others.
-    Wash your hands with soap and running water when hands are visibly dirty; if hands are not visibly dirty, wash them with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand cleanser.
•    Respiratory hygiene
-    When coughing or sneezing, the person should cover her/his mouth and nose with a medical mask, tissue, or a sleeve or flexed elbow; throw the used tissue into a closed bin immediately after use; perform hand hygiene after contact with respiratory secretions.
•    When handling live or dead poultry or visiting a live bird market, wear protective mask and gloves to minimize exposure to possible viruses.
•    Thoroughly cook your meat and avoid consuming raw or uncooked meat and eggs.
•    Always keep raw meat and eggs separate from cooked or ready-to-eat foods to avoid contamination. Do not use the same chopping board or the same knife for raw meat and other foods.
•    Do not handle both raw and cooked foods without washing your hands in between and do not place cooked meat back on the same plate or surface it was on before cooking.
•    Do not use raw or soft-boiled eggs in food preparations that will not be heat treated or cooked. After handling raw meat, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Wash and disinfect all surfaces and utensils that have been in contact with raw meat.
•    Diseased animals and animals that have died of diseases should not be eaten. Do not give or sell these dead animals to other people. Such animals should also not be fed to other animals.
•    When you find dead poultry at a farm, make sure to report it to your local animal health authorities.
•    It is recommended to strengthen biosecurity at family farms and households, commercial operators and marketplaces to assist in reducing the risk of virus introduction.
•    It is recommended to keep all birds and livestock separate from people and living areas as well as following good biosecurity and farm hygiene practices throughout the poultry and other animal marketing chains.
Useful resources and publications
•    Update on H7N9 situation: www.fao.org/h7n9
•    Live Bird Market Biosecurity Guideline (VN): http://www.fao.org/3/a-i5029o.pdf
•    H7N9 Frequently Asked Questions: http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/programmes/en/empres/h7n9/Faq.html
•    H5N1 vs H7N9: http://bit.ly/2lfB33d
•    H7N9 audio spots: http://bit.ly/2k5siY7

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Ms. Ki Jung Min (Outreach Coordinator)
Tel: (+84-4) 38500394 Mobile: (+84) 0125-2464-933
Email: kijung.min@fao.org

Department of Animal Health within the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (DAH-MARD)
Mr. Nguyen Tung (Chief, Division of International Cooperation and Communications)
Tel: (+84-4) 3869 3605
Email: nguyentungncvd@hotmail.com