The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned today that the highly pathogenic Avian Influenza virus H5N1 could become endemic in Turkey and poses a serious risk to neighbouring countries.
“The virus may be spreading despite the control measures already taken,” said Juan Lubroth, senior FAO animal health officer.
“Far more human and animal exposure to the virus will occur if strict containment does not isolate all known and unknown locations where the bird flu virus is currently present,” he added.
FAO called upon neighbouring countries such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iraq, Iran and Syria to be on high alert, to apply surveillance and control measures and to ensure that the public is fully informed about the avian influenza risk.
FAO has sent a team of experts to Turkey to support the authorities in their bird flu control efforts.
“Turkey needs to apply a centrally coordinated and country-wide control campaign based on efficient local actions carried out in a transparent manner. Infected poultry should be reported immediately and all internationally recommended control measures should be used in outbreak areas, including humane culling, strict isolation and, if and when appropriate, vaccination,” Lubroth said.
Veterinary services should have all the necessary political support and financial means to fully investigate and report any suspicion of bird flu. They should ensure that poultry owners in regions most at risk are fully aware of disease symptoms and control measures to apply.
All rural communities involved in poultry production need to be aware of the threat and need to follow good hygienic and agricultural practices to stop the entry of virus into their poultry flocks and to avoid human exposure if sickness is detected.
“Immediate reporting by poultry keepers and their community leaders is the biggest safeguard for people’s health status,” Lubroth said.
The movement of poultry in outbreak areas should cease unless permitted by veterinarians. The movement of birds as gifts during the holiday season is considered as a major risk for spreading the virus.
Each village should enhance biosecurity and should apply strict movement control measures to avoid contact between poultry units. This will greatly support provincial and national control campaigns and help to prevent the spread of the virus in and between villages, FAO said.