BANGKOK, Thailand, August 5, 2004 (ENS):
A veterinary network for Southeast Asia has been launched
to bolster the campaign against renewed outbreaks of
avian influenza, according to United Nations animal
health officials. Two similar networks for South and
East Asia will be formed shortly.
After a period of quiescence in Southeast Asia, outbreaks
of highly pathogenic avian influenza of the A/H5N1 strain
are again being reported in chickens and ducks in China,
Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.
"The outbreaks in birds pose a significant threat
to human health," the World Health Organization
(WHO) warned on Friday.
"The risk of emergence of a new human pandemic
virus will remain as long as the avian influenza virus
exists in the environment," WHO said. "Without
significant increase in control efforts at national
and international levels, it may be years before the
virus is eradicated."
In Thailand, new avian flu outbreaks have been reported
in 21 of 76 provinces; and in Vietnam outbreaks were
reported in the northern, central and southern parts
of the country.
These outbreaks, many without apparent epidemiological
links to each other, suggest A/H5N1 is now widely prevalent
and is very likely to have become endemic.
This viral strain caused more than 100 million birds
to be destroyed across Asia earlier this year; 23 people
died as a result.
In association with the World Organization for Animal
Health (OIE) and WHO, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO) launched the first veterinary network for Southeast
Asia at a three day regional meeting of veterinary officers
and laboratory experts that ended Friday in Bangkok.
The FAO said it will provide around $1.2 million for
the creation of these subregional veterinary networks.
"Avian influenza, which continues to pose a serious
threat to human and animal health requires rapid and
effective national and regional responses. While individual
countries have made some progress, only regional cooperation
is likely to achieve success,"said Joseph Domenech,
chief of the FAO Animal Health Service.
"National borders cannot stop the disease from
spreading," he said.
The veterinary networks will offer training and information
exchange platforms for national laboratories and surveillance
teams from 23 Asian countries.
The Southeast Asia network will cover Cambodia, Laos,
Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Philippines,
Thailand, East Timor and Vietnam.
The network for South Asia will include Afghanistan,
Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Pakistan, Nepal
and Sri Lanka.
In East Asia, China, Japan, Mongolia and both North
and South Korea will participate.
"Our aim is to improve the quality of diagnosis
and epidemiological data," Domenech said. "This
will help countries to judge the effectiveness of their
control campaigns, identify weaknesses or share success
stories. Therefore, the region will be in a much better
position to respond to the avian influenza threat,"
The World Health Organization says this virus "has
the potential to ignite a global influenza pandemic
In a number of these outbreaks since the beginning
of 2004, the virus has jumped from infected chickens
or ducks directly to humans, WHO pointed out. These
direct human infections have produced severe and sometimes
"WHO's continuing concern is that this virus may
reassort its genes with those from a human influenza
virus, thereby acquiring the ability to move easily
from human to human and thus triggering a pandemic,"
the agency said.
Although there have been several informal reports of
human illnesses in connection with the latest outbreaks
of avian influenza, WHO says it has no confirmation
of these cases.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All