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Bird Flu: battle showing success on poultry farms

On poultry farms, battle against bird flu showing some success, UN agency says

Although bird flu outbreaks continue in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Near East, with its arrival confirmed in 45 countries, efforts to combat the disease on poultry farms are slowly proving successful, the United Nations agricultural aid agency said today.

To date, 108 people have succumbed to the deadly H5N1 avian influenza virus, all in Asia, and more than 200 million birds have died from the virus or through culling, but a vigorous response on farms, particularly in Thailand, Viet Nam and China, appears to have reduced the transmission of the disease from poultry to humans, according to Joseph Domenech, Chief Veterinary Officer of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Vaccination campaigns, such as the one carried out in Viet Nam, have also played an important role in some areas, and owner compensation has encouraged timely reporting of new avian influenza outbreaks, FAO said.

FAO, along with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), continues to urge governments to concentrate containment efforts on farms and to emphasize the role of human activities such as trade that are considered the main spreaders of the virus but can also be inspected, controlled and improved.

However, where wild birds threaten to introduce the virus, the Rome-based organization says little can be done to control their movement but that action should be taken to prevent their contact with domestic birds.

“The need to keep domestic birds away from wild birds has been widely recognized and efforts to do so have been implemented in many countries,” Mr. Domenech said.

To coordinate regional and global efforts to fight the disease, FAO said it needs $36 million over the next three years, in addition to funds for direct assistance to infected and at-risk countries. For these purposes, the agency has so far received $40 million and has signed agreements with donors for an additional $20 million.

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