Avian flu in Myanmar concerns FAO

Apr 11, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – Avian influenza is continuing its spread among birds in many countries worldwide, with widespread outbreaks reported in Myanmar.

More than 100 outbreaks have occurred in poultry in Myanmar (formerly Burma) since the presence of H5N1 avian flu was announced there about a month ago, officials from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) told Reuters news service yesterday.

The bulk of the outbreaks appear to be occurring in Mandalay in central Myanmar and Sagaing in the northern part of the country, said He Changchui of the FAO. Two FAO teams have been on the ground in Myanmar.

David Nabarro, avian flu coordinator with the United Nations, said the country has major problems. "We're going to be focusing on Myanmar a lot in the next few days and weeks, trying to make sure that the authorities and civil society in that country are able to cope better," he said.

A World Health Organization (WHO) team will travel to Yangon at the end of April to assess how well people are being protected from the H5N1 virus spreading in poultry, Reuters reported.

Myanmar's military leadership is known for secrecy. The WHO describes communicable diseases as a major health problem in the nation.

Other nations are fighting more public battles with the virus:

  • Niger began culling poultry Apr 9, more than a month after H5N1 was first found in the country. The country had sought international help, saying it couldn't conduct the culling on its own, Reuters reported Apr 9.
  • Nigeria reported another nine outbreaks, mainly in commercial poultry, in Bauchi, Kaduna, and Jos, the country noted in an OIE report filed at the beginning of this month. The affected species include ostriches, emus, and black-crowned cranes.
  • Israel has seen two new outbreaks in Jerusalem and HaDarom, totaling 50,000 birds, an OIE report said.
  • The OIE continues to log more individual bird deaths and wild bird outbreaks in Europe, including in Croatia, Czech Republic (according to AFP), Denmark, France, Germany, Poland, Slovenia, and Switzerland.
  • As avian cases spread in many parts of the world, officials in Thailand issued a final report on H5N1 to the OIE, claiming victory in their lengthy battle against the virus. The Mar 31 follow-up report said it had been 140 days since the last case of highly pathogenic avian flu in Thailand. That announcement comes in tandem with broad-based surveillance that included more than 57,000 cloacal swab samples collected in February.

In the United Kingdom, debate swirled over the significance of an H5N1-infected swan found dead and partially consumed in northern Scotland on Mar 29.

"The one swan doesn't mean it (the virus) has arrived here," said Sir David King, the government's chief scientific adviser, on Apr 9 in a story from The Independent newspaper.

DNA testing has identified the bird as a whooper swan, a migratory species that winters in Britain, according to an online report today by The Guardian newspaper.

Charles Milne, the Scottish chief veterinary officer, said it wasn't possible to tell where the swan contracted the lethal virus, The Guardian reported.

"We are working on the assumption that the bird migrated to this country, but it's impossible to say precisely where it died," Milne was quoted as saying. Other media reports today speculated that the dead bird may have floated ashore from another country.

Of 3,397 birds tested in recent months, including 428 swans from Feb 1 to Apr 1, only the dead whooper swan has tested positive for H5N1, according to the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

See also

OIE reports

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