FAO responds to Nepal’s request for HPAI technical assistance
11 November 2010 -The first outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N1 HPAI) in Nepal were confirmed and reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) in mid January 2009. These outbreaks were effectively controlled through the application of disease control measures. Almost 13 months later, multi-location HPAI outbreaks, occurring mostly in backyard birds, were reported in the western, central, and mid-western development regions of the country.
An interesting aspect of these recent outbreaks was the involvement of the avian influenza H5N1 viral clade 2.3.2, which had not been found or reported before in this region. Given that this viral clade has been identified in wild bird species located in regions north of Nepal, it raises the possibility that migratory waterfowl could have been the source of infection(s).
The Government of Nepal issued a formal request to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) for technical assistance following the early reports of the 2010 outbreaks. The Animal Health Service (AGAH) responded through the Crisis Management Centre – Animal Health (CMC-AH), sending a joint mission to the country to assess the evolving disease situation in close collaboration with the Nepalese Department of Livestock Services of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.
The multidisciplinary group visited affected districts in the western, central and mid-western development regions which host large numbers of backyard poultry farmers whose household incomes and nutritional intakes are supplemented by poultry consumption and sales.
The veterinary authorities had launched rapid and effective disease mitigation responses after receiving official diagnostic results from the Veterinary Laboratories Agency at Weybridge, UK confirming that the H5N1 HPAI virus was the causal agent.
The disease control measures applied by Nepal’s Department of Livestock Services included stamping out, quarantine of suspected flocks, movement control inside the country, cleaning and disinfection of infected premises and establishments, and precautionary decontamination of vehicles and personnel.
For its part, FAO is committed to continue to provide assistance to Nepal as needed. The country is currently in the process of reviewing and reassessing standard operation procedures and its animal health legislation, both of which were originally based on the single location outbreak of 2009. This planning will better address multi-location outbreaks, should they again arise in the future.