Bird flu is a disease of birds, so how are the birds doing this year? If you just read the headlines, you might be a bit confused. Unfortunately reading the stories won’t clear things up:
Many global bird flu outbreaks unreported -FAO
Many countries are doing a better job fighting the H5N1 bird flu virus, yet many outbreaks are not reported, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) officials said on Tuesday.
“So far, many countries have managed to progressively control the virus and the global situation has improved tremendously,” Juan Lubroth, a senior FAO infectious diseases official, told a news conference.
“Unfortunately, at the global scale, many outbreaks remain under reported or unreported. National or international bodies are often not in a position to immediately verify rumours or reports about unconfirmed outbreaks,” Lubroth said. (Reuters)
Hmmm. They’re doing better but we don’t know how well they are doing because thy aren’t reporting everything. I could be a bit more comforted. Maybe I’ll read this, instead:
Bird flu back in Asia but less so, says FAO
Recent outbreaks of avian influenza suggest the virus is “somewhat endemic” to Asia and will be around for several more years, despite a dramatic slowdown in the epidemic globally, Food and Agriculture Organization experts said on Tuesday.
“It will probably take several years to contain and finally eradicate the H5N1 virus from the poultry sector,” said FAO deputy regional representative Hiroyuki Konuma. (German Press Agency)
The support for this optimistic view seems to be that so far the outbreaks have mainly been confined to Asia — China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. Except for Egypt and Nigeria. But who’s counting. The contrast is with last winter when the virus exploded out of Asia into the Middle East and Africa, with sporadic cases in wild birds and sometimes small carnivores in Europe. So by that standard, things don’t look so bad.
But they are not very good, either. Everyone agrees Indonesia is a bird flu fault zone, with the virus solidly entrenched and endemic in the archipelago nation’s backyard poultry flocks. And it is a bit premature to make judgments for this year in any event. We still have more than half of the bad part of the flu season left and the Tet New Year is coming up in southeast asia and New Year in China, the time when families gather and eat poultry. There is a ton of H5N1 virus out there replicating in animals with close contact with humans. In fact we don’t even know all the animals it may be infecting.
It would be a shame if FAO’s somewhat rosy report were to encourage complacency.
UN urges caution after new bird flu outbreaks
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned against complacency after fresh flare-ups of bird flu worldwide, as Thailand reported its second outbreak this year.
Five people in Indonesia have died from the virus since the start of 2007, while China, Egypt, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Nigeria and Thailand have all seen a resurgence of the deadly H5N1 strain in poultry and birds this year.
“FAO is concerned about these new flare-ups, demonstrating that the virus continues to persist in Asia as well as other counties,” Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO deputy regional representative for Asia and the Pacific, told reporters Tuesday.
In Thailand, 111 people are being monitored for possible infection after an outbreak in ducks last week, and on Tuesday the Livestock Department confirmed a second outbreak in chickens in the northeast province of Nong Khai.
John Riddle, from the FAO office in Rome, urged the world not to drop its guard against the devastating disease.
“It’s a worry not just to the countries but to the international community,” he told AFP. “It is the time to be exceptionally watchful.” (AFP)
These guys really know how to get their message out. When you figure out what the message is, let me know.