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Detecting a high-risk strain of avian influenza for the first time in Myanmar

Detecting a high-risk strain of avian influenza for the first time in Myanmar


Animal health workers in Myanmar detected a strain of avian influenza virus in poultry, which had not been detected in the country before. The virus, influenza A(H5N6), presents a risk both to poultry and to humans. Spill over of infection of this sub-type has caused human deaths in China. Detection was made possible by a long-term programme of workforce training and laboratory development implemented by FAO.

Animal health workers collected more than 9 000 duck, chicken and environmental samples from live bird markets in border townships, where unregulated poultry importation occurs. National laboratories then ran new diagnostic tests, following FAO protocol, which are designed to detect a range of avian influenza sub-types. The laboratories followed the FAO guidelines and staff had been trained and proficiency tested by FAO, ensuring testing was carried out safely and accurately.

In response to the detection of this strain of avian influenza virus in 1.3 percent of the samples, an early warning was issued to farmers and veterinary services to remain vigilant. According to the One Health approach, the human health sector was also alerted to the potential disease threat. National avian influenza control contingency plans were revised to include the sub-type. The detection of this virus had global significance, as data from Myanmar was shared with the World Health Organization and informed international vaccine composition meetings. Through FAO’s work with national laboratories, steady improvement in disease detection capability is being achieved across Asia.