News / Health

FAO Issues Avian Flu Warning

Health workers take a blood sample from a chicken in Hong Kong, April 11, 2013.
Health workers take a blood sample from a chicken in Hong Kong, April 11, 2013.

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Avian flu continues to pose serious health threats to both human and animal health, especially as the flu season approaches. That’s the warning issued Monday by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.


The FAO is calling on the international community to be vigilant for any signs of H5N1 and the new H7N9 avian flu. The former has been around for years, but H7N9 was first reported in China only last April. About 130 human infections were confirmed. Many of those patients had reported contact with poultry. Most had severe respiratory illness. Forty-four people died.

FAO senior animal health officer Ian Douglas said timing of the warning is important.

“We’ve had over a decade of experience with H5N1 avian influenza virus and generally speaking we’ve seen this pattern of increase of incidence of the disease with the coming of cooler weather following summer. The experience with H7N9 version of avian influenza virus is much more limited. But whilst the number of human cases of that infection have declined, there is the possibility that it could reemerge and become a more prevalent infection.”

While both strains can jump from poultry to humans, there is a difference between the two.

Douglas said, “The difference perhaps is significant in so far as H7N9 has not been observed to cause much of clinical disease in poultry. And this constitutes a much great challenge because it’s not immediately obvious where the birds are infected and therefore, of course, the root of transmission to humans is somewhat more concealed.”

The lack of clinical signs makes is difficult to detect.

Health officials are very concerned that avian flu viruses might mutate and allow infections between people, not just between people and poultry. But is there any evidence, so far, that human to human transmission has occurred?

“There have been some suggestions,” he said, “of clusters where with very close contact that might have been the case. But of course the possibilities exist for a common exposure to an animal source. Avian influenza viruses can survive for some time outside of the bird or human host and contamination of the environment, at least for a reasonably short period of time, is possible.”

Douglas said that avian influenza viruses have the potential to produce a pandemic of human infection.

“In the case of H5N1, fairly rapidly. Over 60 countries in the world reported some cases occurring either in domestic or wild birds. That number is much reduced. Today, however, the infections remain endemic from Egypt across South and Southeast Asia and somewhat entrenched in those populations.”

He said it’s not clear whether H7N9 would behave the same way, adding there’s much to learn about the virus.

Established control methods involve culling -- and vaccinations in the case of the H5N1 virus. But the response must also include tracking where the birds came from and their intended destinations – and ensure that poultry markets adhere to sanitation guidelines.

You May Like

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid