FAO: poultry producers to blame for bird flu outbreak
spread of the disease, undermining industry's assertions that it is
mainly wild birds that spread the disease.
Recent outbreaks of avian influenza in China, Thailand and Viet Nam have led to producers blaming wild birds for the transmission of the disease.
"Killing wild birds will not help to prevent or control avian influenza outbreaks," said Juan Lubroth of the FAO Animal Health Service. "Wild birds are an important element of the ecosystem and should not be destroyed."
Though it is recognised that certain species of water fowl can be a reservoir of avian influenza viruses, "to date, there is no scientific evidence that wildlife is the major factor in the resurgence of the disease in the region," he added.
The major factors contributing to the spread of the avian influenza virus are poor hygienic practices related to the production, processing and marketing of poultry, contaminated products, gaps in biosecurity and individuals not following recommended control measures, FAO said. This statement turns the tables back on the industry, after increasing concerns that wildlife were the main cause of the disease being spread between poultry flocks.
"Hunting wild birds, some of which are listed as endangered, or cutting down trees to destroy roosting sites, is likely to disperse wild birds into new areas, stress them further and could make them susceptible to avian influenza or other diseases," said William Karesh of the Wildlife Conservation Society, based in New York.
The FAO sayd that improved poultry coops and biosecurity measures to keep farm poultry, including ducks, from coming into contact with free-flying fowl can diminish the risk of disease spread. In recent months the organisation has been working alongside respective governments and representatives of the Asia Pacific poultry processing sector in an effort to drive home this message and prevent further outbreaks of the disease.
If surveillance is improved and immediate reporting is strictly applied, starting from the villages, more pockets of infection and disease are bound to be detected at their early stage. This is the best way of dealing with avian influenza, FAO said.
The FAO has been pushing hard for greater transparency within the industry by trying to encourage poultry producers to report outbreaks of sickness in their farms as soon as they occur. The organisation has been stressing the fact that, by not declaring outbreaks of the disease, the success of control measures will be diminished, leading to further delay restocking investments for poultry farmers.
As a result, the organisation says that emergency response plans should include the immediate destruction of affected poultry flocks using proper protective equipment and clothing that follow its specific guidelines on the subject backed up by thorough cleaning and disinfection of the premises.
It also says that destroyed or dead birds should never be fed to other animals nor should their carcasses be sold. Markets and marketing patterns should be carefully monitored and samples collected for analysis.
At the beginning of this year industry experts were estimating that the bird flu outbreak would cost the Asia Pacific region somewhere in the region of $500 million, mainly due to the mass culling of nearly 100 million birds. However as the industry continues to be dogged by further outbreaks, costs appear to rising all the time. Last week's fresh outbreaks of the disease were reported by poultry producers have sparked renewed fears that after restocking, poultry producers could be facing a fresh wave of the disease.