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Bird flu fight hindered by complacency: U.N. agency

Bird flu fight hindered by complacency: U.N. agency

Developing countries, particularly Egypt and Indonesia, have become complacent about the lethal strain of bird flu, hindering efforts to eradicate it, a United Nations' health official said.
"The problem we have is mainly in the backyards of poor families in Indonesia and Egypt," Bernard Vallat, director general of the World organization for Animal Health (OIE), told Reuters on Friday.
Almost half of the reported deaths from the H5N1 strain of bird flu have occurred in Indonesia, according to World Health Organization data. Egypt has been the worst-hit country outside of Asia, with 22 deaths from 50 reported cases.
In an interview, Vallat said farmers in affected countries no longer treat the virus with the same urgency as when it first appeared.
"Now there is fatigue, and the solution is to have new incentives for these people to cooperate in the field of disease policy implementation," Vallat said.
If the indifference could be overcome, effective control of the virus - which has killed 245 people and caused the culling of countless birds - is attainable within three years.
"In a perfect world, three years are sufficient if all services are available and incentives are provided for poultry owners to cooperate," he said.
This week the U.N. and the World Bank said international efforts had limited the spread of bird flu but the risk remained of a global influenza pandemic killing millions.
Most countries now have plans to combat a pandemic, but many of the plans are defective, the U.N.-World Bank report said.
The World Bank estimates that a global pandemic resulting from the mutation of bird flu could cost US$3 trillion.
In Egypt, about 5 million households rely on poultry as a main source of food and income, and the government has said this makes it unlikely the disease can be eradicated, despite a large-scale poultry vaccination program.
China and Vietnam, which have both controlled outbreaks with extensive vaccination programs, should not consider this a problem solved, he added.
"Vaccination is not the solution for the full eradication of the pathogen," Vallat said.


Updated : 2021-05-15 23:00 GMT+08:00