Bird flu outbreaks in Bangladesh require long-term strategic response

21 May 2007, Rome/Dhaka – The bird flu situation in Bangladesh remains serious and the country will have to engage in a long-term strategic campaign against Highly Pathogenic Avian
Influenza in order to get the spreading H5N1 virus under control, FAO said today.

The first officially announced avian influenza outbreak in Bangladesh occurred in February 2007; since then the virus has spread to eleven out of 64 districts.

Bangladesh is the second country in South Asia to be affected by the H5N1 virus this year.

“In response to recent outbreaks, the government and veterinary authorities have applied immediate control and containment measures in affected areas,” said Joseph Domenech,
FAO’s Chief Veterinary Officer.

“Bangladesh has already prepared a National Avian Influenza and Human Pandemic Preparedness Plan and an Emergency Operational Plan to meet the threat of bird flu and is implementing these
plans to control the disease,” Domenech added.

“But there is an urgent need for vigorously stepping up and extending current H5N1 control campaigns in order to prevent the virus becoming widely entrenched. The situation remains of
serious concern and will require further national engagement and coordinated international support.

“Bangladesh has a real chance to get the virus under control, if it commits itself to a full-scale comprehensive national control campaign. FAO is ready to continue its assistance and further
international aid will be essential to support the country in this huge challenge,” Domenech said.

Strategic approach

FAO recommended that Bangladesh applies a strategic approach towards the control of the H5N1 virus, ensuring efficient coordination of all control activities carried out by the more than 60
district rapid response teams. This would entail central coordination and management of campaigns by a national control centre in Dhaka.

The ways the virus is being spread needs to be carefully assessed. FAO recommended that potential virus spread throughout the market chain, for example through the collection of eggs and
distribution of day-old chicks and feed, should be investigated.

Culling is recommended to be carried out at full scale in affected areas. The movement of people, animals and goods in affected areas should be strictly controlled and basic biosecurity
measures (disinfection, protective clothing, etc.) applied.

Minimum hygiene standards are required to be established at slaughter points at live bird markets. Targeted vaccination is also recommended in order to stop the virus spread. The capacity of
veterinary laboratories will need to be improved to allow for rapid diagnosis of suspected outbreaks.

In addition to existing rehabilitation packages already offered to farmers, FAO suggested that Bangladesh develop a comprehensive scheme to encourage reporting, facilitate disease control and
minimise impact of disease control on large and small poultry producers. Public awareness campaigns are necessary to inform poultry producers and consumers about how to reduce virus spread and
how to protect themselves.

Strong network

Bangladesh has a strong network of district and sub-district animal health services that can be harnessed to deliver the surveillance and control program, FAO said. There is, however, a need to
further strengthen capacity to undertake surveillance, control outbreaks and diagnose disease.

According to a recent FAO assessment mission, Bangladesh also needs to strengthen its field surveillance activities on farms, including backyard producers and on wet markets, to allow virus
detection at a very early stage and to permit immediate interventions.

The Asian Development Bank, USAID and FAO’s multidonor Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation Activities (SFERA) have already provided resources to assist Bangladesh in its H5N1 control

FAO has assisted the government in its crisis response and is in the process of creating a team of national and international experts that will support the government in upgrading H5N1 control
capacity, said Ad Spijkers, FAO representative in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has about 220 million chickens and 37 million ducks. Five million people are directly employed by the poultry industry, millions of households rely on poultry production for income
generation and nutrition.

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