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Avian Influenza (Update 14/05/03)

Avian influenza, also known as bird flu, is a highly contagious viral disease of chickens, turkeys, ducks and other birds.

The OIE is closely monitoring the outbreaks of avian influenza occurring in various parts of the world, including the Netherlands, and the more recent outbreaks in Belgium and Germany, as well as the circulation of the virus in other animal species particularly in pigs. The efficient and transparent collaboration between Veterinary Services of the OIE Member Countries involved and the world-wide network of OIE Reference Laboratories ensures a proper follow-up of scientific information related to the disease.

Regarding the potential infections of the virus in humans, the OIE has been informed of a human fatality associated with the H7N7 strain detected in the Netherlands, as well as of several cases of minor conjunctivitis among poultry workers. Latest information received from the Authorities of the Netherlands indicates that the virus has not undergone any genetic modification. There is as yet no documented scientific evidence of any risk to consumers of poultry meat resulting from the currently circulating strains of the virus.

The OIE remains highly concerned of any potential risk that a spread of avian influenza strains may present to the international community particularly from economic and public health points of view. For this reason, a revised international standard has been elaborated, taking into account the risk to humans. This will be submitted for adoption to the International Committee of the OIE that will take place in Paris from 18-23 May 2003.

The OIE will remain vigilant of this situation and will inform its Member Countries of any new developments. To date, there is no reason for taking additional precautonary measures than the ones that have already been taken by the authorities of the affected countries.