EU scientists warn against mass poultry vaccination

27-06-2006 | |

With cases of human-to-human transmission of the avian influenza virus now confirmed, mass vaccination is seen as a potential way to calm consumer fears about poultry safety. But EU scientists are warning that mass vaccination of domestic poultry may hinder detection of the H5N1 strain of the disease.

Mass vaccination may increase consumer confidence and boost consumption of poultry and poultry products, which plunged by as much as 70 percent in some countries at the start of this year.

However, mass vaccination can also serve to disguise the presence of any H5N1 that manages to survive in inoculated flocks, and thus pose a great danger, others have argued.

So far the EU and its member countries have resisted calls for mass vaccination of the domestic poultry stock. Limited vaccinations have been done in areas where bird flu outbreaks have occurred.

While no human case of the H5N1 virus has occurred in the EU, scientists worldwide have been worried that H5N1, which can pass from poultry to humans, may mutate so that it can be transmitted from human to human and start an influenza pandemic.

World Health Organisation (WHO) officials confirmed last week that H5N1 had mutated slightly in a family in Indonesia, passing from a son to his father.

Meanwhile the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control last week warned that vaccination programmes that are widely but imperfectly instituted in poultry, like those in China and Indonesia, may impede detection of human cases.