Experts Gather to Discuss Global Avian Influenza Threat: "The US will be Prepared to Vaccinate if Necessary"

SOUTH AFRICA - Yesterday, experts from around the world gathered in Cape Town, South Africa to discuss the threat of avian influenza (AI) to global poultry stocks.
calendar icon 11 September 2015
clock icon 4 minute read

A two hour symposium, hosted by global animal health company Ceva Sante Animale at the Congress of the World Veterinary Poultry Association, bought together experts from the United States, China, the Netherlands and France.

The meeting sought to understand the continuing threat posed by AI and the value of vaccination in changing times.

To date, 2015 has seen 309 individual outbreaks of avian influenza (AI) reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), which is a staggering 147 per cent increase on outbreaks reported in 2014.

In the US alone during the last six months, 48 million domestic poultry birds (layers and turkeys) have been culled in the United States due to AI, with the disease spreading across 15 states.

It has been the worst epidemic of HPAI ever in the US and despite the outbreak seemingly under control, there are fears that AI could reappear this autumn following outbreaks across 31 countries already this year.

Dr Mark Davidson, Associate Deputy Administrator of the National Import Export Services at the United States Department of Agriculture stated that: “We have taken tremendous effort to prepare for this fall, on the potential that there may be additional introductions (of AI) as the migratory birds come back from the north.”

He continued, “We will be prepared to vaccinate if necessary.”

To date the USA is yet to vaccinate any of its poultry flocks, but Dr Yannick Gardin, Director of Science and Innovation at Ceva said that: "Many dogmas have grown up surrounding the control of Avian flu. Countries who decided to vaccinate were viewed as the bad countries, this is no longer appropriate.”

AI has proven to be a major threat for the global poultry industry, disrupting international trade and inducing high levels of mortality and economical losses in infected flocks. Emerging markets especially struggle to fight and recover from the disease, and decreasing public research funds only compound the issue.

Nevertheless, there is still a debate raging amongst poultry industry experts and government officials, particularly in the US, on the necessity of AI vaccination.

Professor Liu Xiufan, researcher and professor at Yangzhou University in Jiangsu, China stated that: “We learnt several lessons from the vaccination programme employed in China employed in response to the AI outbreak. Firstly, for the H5N1 HPA1, the best control strategy is to stamp out the outbreaks at the early stage.

"Vaccination can raise the level of flock protective immunity, increase the resistance to infection, and reduce virus replication and shredding. Secondly, vaccination must be incorporated with other methods such as biosecurity in farms, live bird markets and control of movements.”

Dr Andre Steentjes, poultry veterinarian and member of the Poultry Veterinary Study Group of the EU concluded that the take home messages were: “That countries need a good AI monitoring system, especially with free range birds and an early warning system – decide when you should make warnings public.”

He also commented on the inconsistencies in public opinion, because often: “People want the birds to be outside and don’t realise they are at risk of catching AI.”

To find out more about AI and the benefits of vaccination with Vectormune AI, visit:

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