Bird flu virus becoming endemic in parts of Asia – UN

Laboratory results show that a recent wave of bird flu in poultry in Thailand and Laos was the result of both old and new strains of the H5N1 virus, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today, calling for vigorous implementation of control measures to prevent further spread of the disease.The FAO says last month’s outbreak in Thailand’s Pichit province was caused by the same strain that has been circulating in the area since 2003, meaning the virus has become endemic to the region.“The H5N1 virus thus remained alive in central Thailand in a reservoir of birds and poultry, most probably a mix of backyard chickens, ducks and fighting cocks,” said Laurence Gleeson, regional manager of FAO’s bird flu centre in Bangkok today.Outbreaks in Thailand’s Nakhon Phanom province and Vientiane in Laos, on the other hand, were caused by strains that did not exist there previously but that did resemble ones found in southern China, the FAO said.The bird flu situation in the region has reached a “critical juncture,” said the agency, noting that outbreaks were continuing in China and also reoccurring in Laos, while cross-border poultry trade persisted across South-East and East Asia, despite well-known risks. For all of those reasons, heightened vigilance was essential throughout the region.“Timely reporting and sharing information continue to be crucial,” said He Changchui, FAO’s Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, pointing out that while some countries can beat back occasional bird flu reoccurrence, poorer countries still need funding to strengthen veterinary services and build up transboundary animal disease containment programmes. read more

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