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Bird Flu Still A Threat - UN

Bird Flu A Threat To Southern Balkans, Caucasus Region, Warns UN Agency

Despite successful efforts to contain the spread of the deadly H5N1 virus, avian flu poses a threat to a growing number of countries, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (><"http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000378/index.html">FAO), which says the Caucasus and southern Balkans are now considered “high-risk areas.

“The region is not only a prime resting ground for migratory bird species, but poultry production is mostly characterized by rural and household husbandry with little in terms of biosecurity and strong regulatory inspection,” says Juan Lubroth, head of FAO’s Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal Diseases.

The FAO says bird flu has been confirmed in 55 countries in Africa, Asia and Europe, up from 45 just four months ago, though the rate of infection among poultry has slowed in most countries.

“We don’t expect to eradicate the H5N1 virus from possible wild bird reservoirs, but we can contain and control it fully in the poultry sector, which is the best insurance we have that it will not mutate into a virus that is easily transmissible among humans,” says Joseph Domenech, Chief Veterinary Officer of FAO.

For that to happen, however, he says veterinary and laboratory services need to be improved in poorer countries, where a general lack of funds hampers public services.

“Just like a chain with a weak link, we need to find the weak links in the global effort to contain H5N1 and strengthen them,” says Mr. Domenech.

The virus has killed 140 people worldwide since 2002, including 63 so far this year, according to the World Health Organization. More than 220 million birds have died from the virus or been killed in culling activities aimed at stopping the spread of the disease.

Ends

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