South Asian States Urged to Raise Surveillance for Avian Flu

PAKISTAN - The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) countries need to urgently prepare themselves to mitigate the threats and risks coming from new strains of avian virus.
calendar icon 16 May 2014
clock icon 4 minute read

At least one well-equipped national laboratory with trained manpower in each of the Saarc member state is a pre-requisite for developing a reliable and efficient diagnostic and surveillance set-up for the new strains, reports The News in Pakistan.

The country representative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Patrick T. Evans, issued this timely warning while addressing the ‘Saarc Regional Training Workshop on Laboratory Diagnosis of Avian Influenza A(H7N9) virus.’ Organised by FAO at the National Reference Laboratory on Poultry Diseases, the workshop is being attended by scientists from Saarc member states along with provincial participants.

“FAO is supporting the local poultry industry to meet the challenges of Avian influenza,” said Mr Evans. He was of the view that the training at FAO workshop will support the national laboratories in the Saarc member countries to improve control and containment of emerging avian influenza viruses in the region.

Dr Mohammad Azeem, director general of National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC), appreciated the efforts of scientists from the National Reference Laboratory for Poultry Disease at NARC, which has been declared as Regional Leading Diagnostic Laboratory for Avian influenza, in organising the workshop.

Pakistan is facing enormous challenges of spread of infection in domestic poultry since the emergence of novel influenza strain A (H7N9) in eastern China. Efforts are underway by FAO to share the information generated from investigations being carried out by the Chinese authorities to control the spread of this avian virus type H7N9 and reduce the threats both to poultry health and public health.

A major challenge is an early detection and response system to avian influenza because of its ‘silent’ infection in birds, as low virus does not produce clinical signs in infected birds. This is why it is essential for all Saarc member states to have a well-equipped national laboratory with trained manpower.

As a part of preparedness activity against influenza A (H7N9) virus, the workshop introduced on-field sampling and shipment methodology along with initial processing of the received samples under bio-secure arrangement at the laboratory. The training during the workshop included hands-on practice for the participants for carrying out tests for the detection of avian influenza virus. The participants were introduced to the concept of good harmonisation of laboratory testing protocols in order to obtain reliable data from different labs throughout the Saarc region.

Although this virus is transmitted from poultry to humans, it does not cause any disease or mortality in chickens. So far, 404 people have been affected from this virus, out of which about 127 people have died. This spread of avian influenza A (H7N9) raises the urgent need to enhance control efforts, increase preparedness and risk mitigation measures in the moderate and high-risk countries in South Asia and address knowledge gaps.

The News reports that the training at the workshop aimed to support and facilitate cross-border activities among Saarc countries, besides enhancing field and laboratory surveillance of low pathogenic avian influenza in poultry and other animals.

Further Reading

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