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23 February 2004 

BIRD FLU A DISASTER FOR POULTRY PRODUCTION, THREATENS GLOBAL FOOD SECURITY

Stephen M. Apatow, Director of Research and Development, Humanitarian Resource Institute

According to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Jacques Diouf (Bird flu "disaster" for poultry production: FAO official, Xinhua News Agency, 23 February 2003):

  • The prevalent avian influenza had caused great damage to livestock production and threatened food security.
  • The spread of the highly pathogenic avian influenza in several areas in Asia is a disaster for livestock production and a threat to human health.
Statistics released by FAO earlier February showed that more than 450 million birds had been culled in Asia excluding China, about some 0.7 percent of the region's total inventory. 

As noted in the WHO Avian Influenza - Fact Sheet,15 January 2004

"Recent research has shown that viruses of low pathogenicity can, after circulation for sometimes short periods in a poultry
population, mutate into highly pathogenic viruses. During a 19831984 epidemic in the United States of America, the H5N2 virus initially caused low mortality, but within six months became highly pathogenic, with a mortality approaching 90%. Control of the outbreak required destruction of more than 17 million birds at a cost of nearly US$ 65 million. During a 19992001 epidemic in Italy, the H7N1 virus, initially of low pathogenicity, mutated within 9 months to a highly pathogenic form. More than 13 million birds died or were destroyed. 

Renowned AIDS specialist David Ho warned in Beijing Monday (Expert Warns of Serious Consequences If Bird, Human Flus Merge):  that if H5N1 virus combines with the H5N2 human influenza virus to create a new H5N2 virus, that could trigger large-scale human-to-human transmissions. 

Recent discussions regarding the genomic sequence of the SARS coronavirus, spread of West Nile Virus throughout North America and international spread of Avian influenza through bird migration patterns have prompted many questions. 

Related Information:


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