Bird Flu :: H5N1 virus remains entrenched in several countries

Despite improvement in the global response to the deadly H5N1 avian influenza over the past few years, the virus remains entrenched in several countries and will continue to spread, the United Nations warned.

The Chief Veterinary Officer of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Joseph Domenech, said the virus was rapidly detected and eliminated or controlled in some 15 countries in Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East where it was introduced during the past six months.

Briefing the press, he said most affected countries have been very open about new outbreaks.

“This shows that countries are taking the H5N1 threat seriously. They are better prepared today and have improved their response systems.” At the same time, Domenech stressed there was no room for complacency, and said a potential human influenza pandemic could not be ruled out as long as the virus continued to exist in poultry.

Recent H5N1 outbreaks in Bangladesh, Ghana, Togo, Czech Republic and Germany are a clear reminder that the virus is spreading to new or previously infected countries, he said, adding that the situations in Egypt, Indonesia and Nigeria are particularly serious.

FAO says containing and eradicating the virus will require a long-term financial and political commitment from Governments, including modifying or changing high risk poultry production and marketing practices to ensure safer supply.