Tuesday, 30 August 2011
UN agency warns of new stain of Avian flu
A major warning has been issued by the United Nations` Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) about the possibility of a "major resurgence" of avian flu, after a mutant strain of the virus was detected in Vietnam and China.
The mutant strain H5N1, which seems resistant to vaccines, is thought to have spread by wild bird migrations, to previously virus free countries including Bulgaria , Israel, Romania, Mongolia and Nepal, according to FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth.
The death of a six year old Cambodian girl last week by the H5N1 strain was confirmed by the World Health Organisation (WHO). This brings the death toll this year in Cambodia, by this virus to eight - all cases discovered in the county in 2011 have proved fatal.
WHO figures show the H5N1 virus has infected 565 people since 2003 when it first appeared, killing 331 of them. In 2006 at its peak, a total of 63 countries were affected by avian flu.
This has also resulted in the culling of more than 400 million domestic poultry causing an estimated $20 billion in economic damage worldwide.
Vietnam has suspended its springtime poultry vaccination campaign this year, and most of the northern and central parts of the country (where H5N1 is endemic) have been invaded by the new virus strain, known as H5N1 – 188.8.131.52, reports FAO
Vietnam's veterinary services are on high alert and reportedly considering a novel, targeted vaccination campaign this fall. Virus circulation in Vietnam poses a direct threat to Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia as well as endangering the Korean peninsula and Japan further afield. Wild bird migration can also spread the virus to other continents.
"The general departure from the progressive decline observed in 2004-2008 could mean that there will be a flareup of H5N1 this fall and winter, with people unexpectedly finding the virus in their backyard," Lubroth said.
"Preparedness and surveillance remain essential," Lubroth underlined. "This is no time for complacency. No one can let their guard down with H5N1."