FAO sees good and bad news as avian flu persists

Apr 2, 2007 (CIDRAP New) – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) gave a good news–bad news assessment of the global avian flu situation today, after a weekend that brought word of more outbreaks on farms in Bangladesh and Vietnam.

The FAO said the disease has infected fewer birds so far this year than it had by this time last year, but warned that Egypt, Indonesia, and Nigeria have not yet been able to control it.

Joseph Domenech, the FAO's chief veterinary officer, said the "overall viral load" seems lower now than it was a year ago. "The presence of H5N1 in wild birds is less than it was last year when we saw a surge in the virus, particularly in Europe," he said. "Also there is more transparency, better surveillance and improved and timelier reporting of outbreaks."

Because Egypt, Indonesia, and Nigeria have not been able to contain the disease, they serve as reservoirs that could lead to its introduction in other countries, the FAO said. All three countries are "heavily infected," though Nigeria less than the other two, the statement said.

In Indonesia, only 3 of 33 provinces are free of avian flu, and the disease is endemic in Java, Sumatra, Bali, and South Sulawesi, the FAO said. Lack of compensation for farmers has been an obstacle to avian flu control in Egypt, and Nigeria has not been able to effectively control movement of poultry from outbreak areas.

"Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam have been generally successful in containing and controlling the virus," the agency said. "In Thailand there has not been a human case of the disease since August 2006."

The agency also said the discovery of avian flu in Bangladesh is not surprising, because the virus is circulating in the wider region and the country is on important migratory bird flyways.

Virus hits farms in Bangladesh, Vietnam
Nine more farms in Bangladesh were hit by avian flu over the weekend, bringing the number affected to 25, Radio Australia reported today. The newly affected farms included some near the capital, Dhaka, where the virus first surfaced, and some in the north.

The report said authorities have destroyed about 70,000 birds since the disease was confirmed on six farms on Mar 22. A health official said nearly 500 farm workers have been given a local version of oseltamivir (Tamiflu) as a precaution.

In Vietnam, avian flu killed 65 ducks and forced the slaughter of 20 more in Ca Mau province in the far south, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report published yesterday. The 65 ducks, 20 days old and unvaccinated, began dying Mar 22.

The new outbreaks came a few days after the government said the country had gone 21 days with no new outbreaks, AFP reported. The virus resurfaced in the country's poultry this past winter after about a year with no outbreaks. Most of the recent outbreaks have been in southern Vietnam's Mekong Delta region.

Culling in Myanmar, Kuwait
In other developments, authorities in Myanmar destroyed about 6,600 birds on the northern outskirts of Yangon last week after a possible H5N1 outbreak was detected, according to another AFP report today. The unconfirmed outbreak was on a farm in Mingaladon Township.

Five outbreaks have been confirmed around Yangon, the country's largest city, since Feb 28, AFP reported. About 38,000 birds have been culled.

Officials said the problem is smaller this year than the one a year ago, when 660,000 birds were killed to control an outbreak around the central city of Mandalay.

In Kuwait, officials reported Mar 31 that about 60% of the country's layer hens were destroyed last week in response to avian flu, though the total number of birds found infected was only 96, according to a Mar 31 AFP report.

Health Minister Maasuma al-Mubarak said the number of infected birds had risen from 57 to 96 in the preceding week, with 20 of them on three commercial poultry farms in Wafra, south of Kuwait City, the story said.

Jassem al-Bader, head of the agriculture ministry, said authorities culled 1.1 million layer chickens on the farms, representing about 60% the country's stock, AFP reported. About 1.5 million birds have been culled since this year's first report of the virus in Kuwait, on Feb 25.

See also:

Apr 2 FAO statement

UN news release on the FAO statement

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