Asia's avian flu battle likely to be long, costly

Mar 1, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – United Nations officials at a conference in Bangkok predicted it will take a year or more and cost at least $500 million to eradicate H5N1 avian influenza and rebuild the poultry industry in Asia, according to news service reports.

Samuel Jutzi, director of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO's) animal health division, said $500 million is probably "at the lower end" of likely costs for eradication and recovery, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report. Jutzi spoke at a news conference Feb 28, the closing day of the 23-nation conference.

Jutzi predicted that the cost of culling flocks and compensating farmers would reach $10 million to $100 million in each of the eight countries affected by the highly pathogenic avian flu, according to a Feb 29 report in the Bangkok Post.

Joseph Domenech, another FAO official, predicted it could take several years to stamp out the virus if containment efforts stay at the same level and the affected countries don't get international help, according to the AFP report.

Meanwhile, Japanese officials today confirmed that the country's latest outbreak of avian flu is due to the H5N1 virus, according to an online report by Japan Today. The outbreak was reported last week in Kyoto Prefecture, about 250 miles southwest of Tokyo. Testing by the National Institute of Animal Health identified the virus, the report said.

The farm where the disease appeared has been criticized for allegedly continuing to ship birds and failing to immediately notify authorities after the outbreak began. At least 67,000 chickens have died in the past week, and another 130,000 were being slaughtered, according to an AFP report today.

The report said it was not yet known whether the Kyoto outbreak was linked with two other recent H5N1 outbreaks elsewhere in southern Japan. The first was discovered Jan 11 and the second Feb 17. They were the first Japanese outbreaks since 1925.

In other developments, Texas officials today described a plan for monitoring poultry flocks within 30 miles of the farm where highly pathogenic H5N2 avian flu was reported Feb 20. The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) said no more outbreaks have been found in tests of more than 250 poultry flocks within 10 miles of the affected farm, about 50 miles from San Antonio. While deadly for poultry, the virus is not considered dangerous to humans.

Dr. Max Coats, deputy director of animal health programs for the TAHC, said all known poultry owners within 10 miles of the affected farm have been contacted and their flocks tested once. He said the 39 farms within 5 miles of the affected farm will be retested at least four times, and poultry from those farms can be moved only with a state or federal permit.

Texas officials said they plan to test some poultry flocks as far as 30 miles from the affected farm.

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