The bird flu crisis is likely to be a continuing emergency that will last several years and inflict ‘tremendous damage’ to bird populations, and domestic poultry in particular, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has warned.
The Rome-based agency said in a statement: “The rapid spread of the disease means that FAO now needs $308 million for its contribution to the global programme for the progressive control of avian influenza over the next three years – more than twice the sum required a few months ago. To date, FAO has only received $71 million.”
FAO is concerned that the international focus on the possibility of a human pandemic means that people are neglecting its potentially devastating impact on animals. This fails to recognize that the best way to protect people is to control and try to eradicate the disease in animals.
There have so far been 217 human cases, 123 of them fatal, ascribed to contact with infected birds. In many countries, fear of infection is leading consumers to shy away from poultry, throwing the multimillion dollar poultry industry into crisis.
FAO stresses that the international fight against bird flu must start with increased surveillance of poultry and other animals, followed by rapid reporting of any outbreaks and strict measures to limit its spread through culling, secure disposal of sick animals and the control of movements of animals and products.
It also urges farmers, traders, and all others in close contact with poultry to be particularly careful about basic hygienic standards and to tighten bio-security on the farm. The movement of poultry to and from markets, and of people involved in production and marketing, are the main spreaders of the disease to previously unaffected areas.