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Bird Flu: UN Agency Calls For Mass Cullings

Bird Flu: UN Agency Calls For Mass Cullings, International Aid For Compensation

With a highly contagious strain of bird flu erupting in Asia and fears that in a worst case scenario it could mutate into a deadly human-to-human infection, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today called for speedy mass killing of exposed birds and international aid to farmers hit by the measures.

“Mass cullings in affected areas are currently considered as the most effective way of stamping out the highly contagious virus that has so far hit 10 countries in Asia," the agency’s senior animal production and health officer, Hans Wagner, said of the measures which have so far resulted in 25 million birds being killed.

"We are, however, concerned that mass cullings are not taking place at a speed we consider absolutely necessary to contain the virus H5N1 [the current avian flu strain] in the region,” Mr. Wagner added.

Noting that lack of compensation discouraged small producers dependent on chickens and eggs for their daily income from applying necessary emergency measures, he called on the international community to urgently address the problem of financial assistance and advice, especially in poorer countries.

“The campaign against avian flu can only be successful if we convince poultry farmers in all affected countries to apply drastic emergency measures such as cullings,” Mr. Wagner said. "There is a real threat that the virus may linger on in poorer countries which are without adequate resources to apply control measures."

Only two countries, Viet Nam and Thailand, have so far reported laboratory confirmed cases of bird flu infection in humans, the former with eight cases, six of them fatal, the latter with three cases, two of them fatal. None of those involved human-to-human transmission.

But the FAO and UN World Health Organization (WHO) warned earlier this week that the virus risked evolving into “an efficient and dangerous human pathogen.” If the virus circulates long enough in humans and farm animals “there is an increased risk that it may evolve into a pandemic influenza strain which could cause disease worldwide,” they added.

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