Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Southeast Asia aims to eradicate H5N1 by 2020

Maryn McKenna Contributing Writer

Apr 28, 2010 (CIDRAP News) – A multi-national meeting aimed at freeing Southeast Asia from H5N1 avian flu within 10 years wrapped up deliberations yesterday with a call for cooperation to keep animal diseases from crossing national borders.

The First Technical Working Group Meeting on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) Roadmap, a project of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), met for 2 days in Jakarta to work out mutually agreed plans—the "roadmap"—that will be submitted to the 10 member countries later this year.

In the meeting's opening remarks Apr 26, H.E. S. Pushpanathan, ASEAN's deputy secretary-general, recalled the deep damage done to the Southeast Asian economy by the first sustained outbreak of H5N1 starting in 2003, in which 200 million poultry were culled and nations recorded a collective $10 billion in losses.

"HPAI is a transboundary animal disease. Successful eradication would require effective regional collaborative mechanisms and actions," Pushpanathan said in remarks posted on the ASEAN Web site. "Animal health and the issues related to it are important concerns to ASEAN as it will have a serious impact on ASEAN's continued growth and development."

The draft produced by the end of the meeting points the member countries toward establishing a single regional economic market in livestock and animal products by 2015 and eradicating H5N1 from the region by 2020, according to an Apr 28 Xinhua report. It pays particular attention to instituting a "One World, One Health" approach (a concept backed by 38 national and international health organizations) of treating animal and human diseases as a continuum that requires consistent policy responses across government and development agencies.

The move to strengthen Southeast Asian responses to avian flu comes at a time when H5N1, which had slipped behind novel H1N1 in activity and in public health attention, appears to be rising again in both realms.

Vietnam's Department of Animal Health reported yesterday that the country's central province of Quang Tri has recorded an outbreak that killed 250 ducks out of 1,500 on one farm, according to an Apr 27 Xinhua story. Three other provinces have had recent outbreaks, including Quang Ngai (three provinces to the south of Quang Tri), and Bac Kan and coastal Quang Ninh in northern Vietnam.

Bangladesh announced plans to upgrade 19 live-bird markets in Dhaka (the capital) and 11 other cities, using a $575,000 grant from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that funds worker training and sanitation improvements, the Bangladesh Daily Star reported today. Five other markets in the capital have already been upgraded.

The need in Bangladesh is critical: According to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), there have been 12 new farm and village outbreaks in Bangladesh since the beginning of March.

And in Indonesia, the Metro Riau news site in Riau province on Sumatra is reporting illness among chickens, believed to be flu, that may have spread to children in a family.


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