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The OIE Working Group for Wildlife Diseases continually monitors infectious diseases in wild animals globally in order to keep OIE Member Countries informed of new developments.

The OIE Working Group for Wildlife Diseases continually monitors infectious diseases in wild animals globally in order to keep OIE Member Countries informed of new developments. The Group met at the OIE headquarters in Paris from 14 to 16 February 2005 to report on the occurrence of wildlife diseases in the world during 2004. The significant wildlife disease events that occurred during 2004 included:

1. Avian influenza and wild birds

In the current epidemic of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in Southeast Asia, there are occasional reports of wild birds having been infected with the H5N1 pathogenic strain of the virus. While wild birds are commonly infected with a wide range of mild strains of avian influenza (AI) virus that do not cause disease, there is little evidence as yet, that wild birds in Southeast Asia have been significantly affected by the HPAI virus strain(s). The potential involvement of migratory wild birds in spreading HPAI infection is currently being studied and analysed. The Working Group strongly recommended that surveillance for AI in wild birds be increased to better understand the epidemiology of AI in wild birds in SE Asia and worldwide.

2. Anthrax in southern and east Africa

Thousands of wild animals died from Anthrax in 2004 in Africa involving seven different countries. These were multi-species infections and in some areas infection also occurred in livestock. Some mortalities also were reported in people who had consumed or handled carcasses of infected animals. Anthrax is known to be endemic in most of these areas but these outbreaks represent peaks in expected patterns of disease occurrence.

3. Classical swine fever in central and eastern Europe.

The positive impact of international collaborative disease surveillance and coordinated disease control activities has been highlighted by the multi-national programme for classical swine fever control in wild boar in Europe over the past decade. This programme was effective because of the timely and fully transparent sharing of information through a single data management system and coordinated disease control actions. The disease is now close to eradication in wild boar in a large part of Western Europe.

The Working Group also discussed frameworks for OIE guidance on improving disease surveillance, detection and reporting in wildlife as well as disease preparedness for transboundary incursions of epidemic livestock diseases and emerging zoonoses. The OIE also envisages enlisting the active participation of the Group in a new Ad hoc Group set up to deal with emerging zoonoses.

The increasing organizational cooperation between OIE, WHO and FAO in this regard was welcomed and encouraged by the Working Group.

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