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25 February 2004

Work to Contain Bird Flu Must Continue in Asia, FAO Says

Estimated 100 million birds destroyed so far

Destruction of poultry must continue in Asia if ongoing outbreaks of a dangerous bird flu virus are to be contained. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) issued that guidance February 25, citing new reports of avian influenza in eight Asian nations.

FAO estimates that 100 million chickens have been killed or destroyed so far in an effort to stop transmission of H5N1, the highly infectious strain of flu that's attacking the flocks. The disease has also been transmitted to humans, causing a total of 32 cases and 25 deaths in Thailand and Vietnam. Those numbers, tracked by the World Health Organization, are based on laboratory confirmed cases, so there is a possibility that the number of human cases is far higher but as yet undetected.

International public health experts and representatives from 23 Asian-Pacific nations will be in Bangkok February 26-28 for a regional meeting on the disease and the response.

Following is the text of the FAO announcement:

(begin text)

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Outbreaks of bird flu are still occurring in some Asian countries

An international emergency meeting in Bangkok will discuss control strategies.

Rome, 25 February 2004 -- Outbreaks of avian influenza are still occurring in some Asian countries, FAO said today, stressing the need for continued control campaigns.

Countries affected by the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus are Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Laos, Thailand and Viet Nam.

"The situation in some countries is still unclear and further epidemiological investigations are required to get the virus under control," FAO said.

FAO estimates that about 100 million birds have died or have been culled to battle the disease (Thailand 36 million, Viet Nam 36 million, China 5 million, Pakistan 4 million, Indonesia 15 million).

FAO has sent several disease experts to Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Pakistan, Thailand and Viet Nam to assess the local situation and assist countries in their battle against the disease.

The findings of these missions will be instrumental to understand the origin of the epidemic and the factors that lead to such a wide and massive spread of the virus.

Surveillance and control strategies should be continued, FAO urged, including elimination of all birds in infected production units and the strengthening of biosecurity measures.

Officials from 23 Asia-Pacific countries, international experts, donor and development organizations will meet in Bangkok, 26-28 February 2004, for a regional emergency meeting on bird flu to discuss control strategies and rehabilitation measures.

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