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Avian influenza crisis in Asia: animal health issues need more attention

The scientific findings of the international expert team which recently visited Viet Nam at the request of the Ministry of Health of this country, showed that fortunately there is yet no evidence of a significant change in the Avian Influenza virus, nor that it is widely spread among humans as initially thought. However, the virus is still circulating in the region among birds

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) confirms its permanent position about the importance of eliminating the virus at the animal source, emphasizing the priorities of animal health issues in the prevention and management of the crisis.

The OIE again claims that more efforts and resources be directed to containment of the virus in animals in rural areas. A minor part of the resources legitimately allocated by countries for the prevention of the human pandemic (for example for antivirus and vaccine stocking) could be sufficient for financing sustainable, concrete actions at local level to eliminate the virus at the animal source. This is likely to include support for compensation for losses suffered by farmers and should also encompass education on safe poultry keeping and marketing of live animals.

National Veterinary Services in the entire region should be perfectly organized and be given infrastructures and appropriate public resources for the early detection and rapid response to animal disease outbreaks. Also, they should be given means to carry out and control the vaccination of birds when it occurs.

Donors should consider these requirements as a global public good for the interest of both countries and the international community as a whole.

Today the joint "FAO/OIE/WHO consultation on avian influenza and human health: risk measures in producing, marketing and living with animals in Asia" started its two days work in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Commenting on the importance of this meeting, the Director General of the OIE, Dr Bernard Vallat said that the Avian Influenza virus has yet to develop efficient human-to-human transmission and that there is still time for action that focuses on reducing the risk of its establishing the attributes necessary for a pandemic to occur. "The OIE strongly appeals the international community to support those countries in Asia that do not yet have the resources to deal with the situation", he added.

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