WASHINGTON, ROME and PARIS -- Asian countries that
declare victory over avian influenza should base such statements on in-depth
investigations, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) urged in a joint statement late last week.
The OIE and FAO are ready to provide international experts to assess the
epidemiological situation, the two organizations said.
"Collaboration between countries and the international community is
essential to ensure that the avian influenza virus really is under control and
that effective preventive and control measures have been put in place in each
affected country and its neighbors," the FAO and OIE said.
More than three months after the outbreak of avian influenza in several Asian
countries, with 23 human deaths in Thailand and Viet Nam, the situation has
improved in China, Thailand and Viet Nam, according to the two organizations.
Further outbreaks could flare up
"The crisis is still not over," the FAO and OIE warned. "In countries such as
Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, further outbreaks could still flare
up. The virus could spread again within and between countries. As long as
the H5N1 virus is not fully under control, the potential threat to human
All affected countries have designed national control campaigns according
to their needs. "This is an important first-line of defense against the
virus, which needs to be further strengthened," the FAO and OIE said.
In particular, appropriate precautionary measures have to be put in place
to ensure that infected zones become free from infection and remain so.
Before countries resume restocking, they must apply strong surveillance and
biosecurity measures, to ensure that potential new infections are discovered
and contained immediately, the FAO and OIE said.
The absence of the virus has to be proved by virus search and serological
surveys. In countries applying vaccination programs, non-vaccinated
susceptible chickens, so-called "sentinel animals," should be used. The
movement of poultry and contaminated goods must be carefully monitored to
avoid the reintroduction of the virus from affected areas. Contact between
wild and domestic birds has to be minimized.
According to OIE international standards, countries can claim to be free
from avian influenza under certain conditions and in any case six months after
the occurrence of the last outbreak.
The FAO and OIE also called for further investigation into how the epidemic
started. "To avoid future outbreaks, we need a clear understanding of how the
To date, at least 100 million birds have died or have been culled to
control the disease.
Source: U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization