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Organisation Mondiale de la Santé Animale

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Comments on recent OIE Director General statements on the avian influenza situation (anglais)

Paris, 16 janvier 2008 - At an informal meeting with the press on 10/1/08 , the Director General of the OIE, Dr Bernard Vallat presented an overview on current and future activities of the organisation while addressing the need for global animal health strategies to control emerging and re-emerging infectious animal diseases worldwide.

In this context, the issue of highly pathogenic avian influenza and the current situation with H5N1 was raised by some of the reporters.

Dr Vallat said – as he has said in the past – that although the H5N1 virus is extremely virulent, it has shown to be quite stable over the last few years and its epidemiological behaviour remained the same from the beginning of the crisis in 2003. He added that this observed stable behaviour of the H5N1 strain of the virus does not allow ruling out the risk of a mutation into a new dangerous form for humans, thus becoming a potential candidate for an avian influenza pandemic.

Dr Vallat also said that while no one can predict when and how a human influenza pandemic will occur, this may not originate from the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 South East Asian strain which is only one of many other influenza virus strains that can eventually be responsible for a pandemic.

“Bird flu will always remain a risk, be it H5N1 or another and for that reason pandemic preparedness as well as permanent control of the pathogen at the animal source are important”, he said.

In line with the organisation’s position and that of its international partners, Dr Vallat reinforced the need to strengthen the infrastructure capable of early detection and rapid response for any emerging disease at animal level, especially those with a zoonotic potential. He regretted that such capacities were not in place at the very beginning of the H5N1 avian influenza crisis, which delayed the reaction of countries, especially the poorest ones, first hit in South East Asia . He welcomed today’s much better preparedness of countries to detect and control the disease.

Dr Vallat repeated the need to strengthen the governance of veterinary services and to improve the collaboration between disciplines, as well as between private and public sectors.

Janvier 2008