The current bird flu epizootic caused by the highly pathogenic influenza virus H5N1 began in Southeast Asia in late 2003. Hundreds of millions of poultry birds that have either died from the disease or been destroyed under control programmes in infected countries. The economic impact has been severe on farmers and consumers, notably small-scale farmers. The Vietnamese government has estimated economic losses in 2004 at 0.5% of its GDP. Moreover, if people come into close contact with diseased birds, they may be contaminated and develop a disease that has so far proved fatal in more than half of the declared, confirmed cases. The nature of the virus means that it mutates frequently, such mutation could result in a strain that could directly transmitted between humans (which is not currently the case), a situation that would probably result in a pandemic and have serious consequences for public health.
Under these conditions, the only effective global measure, in terms of both economic and public health, is to control the H5N1 virus epizootic, and primarily in Southeast Asia. It is also crucial to monitor its possible spread, and to apply control measures and stamping out as soon as it occurs. Recent events in Nigeria have shown that if the initial outbreak is not quickly contained after the first suspicions the virus could rapidly spread to other farms.
ProMed-mail :The global electronic reporting system for outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases & toxins, open to all sources. ProMED-mail, the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases, is a program of the International Society for Infectious Diseases
. Go to proMed-mail avian influenza page