Aug 11, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – The global H5N1 avian influenza situation in birds improved in the first half of this year, but an H5N1 strain not previously seen in Africa recently cropped up in Nigeria, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).”Considering the number of outbreaks reported worldwide, the global HPAI [highly pathogenic avian influenza] situation can be said to have improved markedly in the first half of 2008,” the FAO said in the latest issue of its avian flu bulletin, AIDEnews.However, four countries where H5N1 is endemic—Egypt, China, Indonesia, and Vietnam—continued to report outbreaks during the 6-month period, and the virus re-emerged in Pakistan and in Hong Kong’s live bird markets, the agency noted.In June, 11 H5N1 outbreaks were reported in five countries (China, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Vietnam), compared with 65 outbreaks in June 2006 and 55 in June 2007, the FAO said. Europe reported no outbreaks, unlike in June of previous years, and no cases were reported in wild birds.However, Indonesia has not submitted reports on H5N1 events since May, because the new database for the country’s Participatory Disease Surveillance system is being modified, according to the report.”Although there has been an improvement in disease awareness, outbreaks/cases of HPAI are still underestimated and underreported in many countries because of limitations in country disease surveillance systems, which may affect considerably the shape of the distribution of outbreaks by region,” the FAO said.Novel strain in NigeriaIn a statement today about Nigeria, the FAO said recent avian flu outbreaks in the states of Katsina and Kano involved a strain that has never been reported in Africa before but is similar to strains identified in Italy, Afghanistan, and Iran in 2007. The agency did not identify the strain by clade or subclade.Scott Newman, international wildlife coordinator for the FAO’s Animal Health Service, said the discovery is a concern because it is not known how the virus was brought into Africa.”It seems to be unlikely that wild birds have carried the strain to Africa, since the last migration of wild birds from Europe and Central Asia to Africa occurred in September 2007 and this year’s southerly migration into Africa has not really started yet,” Newman said.He said the new strain could have been introduced through international trade or illegal and unreported movement of poultry, adding, “This increases the risk of avian influenza spread to other countries in western Africa.”A team of FAO animal health experts and veterinary epidemiologists is working with the Nigerian government on disease surveillance, outbreak investigations, and the establishment of veterinary drug stockpiles, the agency said.Increased pathogenicity in VietnamIn other developments, the pathogenicity of H5N1 strains circulating in Vietnam seems to be rising, according to another article in the FAO’s AIDEnews.Investigators from the US Department of Agriculture and colleagues from Vietnam’s National Centre for Veterinary Diagnosis said the increase in pathogenicity is manifested by more severe respiratory tract infections in ducks and an increase in cloacal virus levels, according to the article.The higher pathogenicity has been seen in H5N1 viruses circulating in the Red River Basin (clades 2.3.2 and 2.3.4) and the Mekong delta (clade 1), the report says.Jan Slingenbergh of the FAO’s Animal Health Service said that despite the increased pathogenicity, avian flu in Vietnam is generally “fairly well in check,” according to the report. Slingenbergh participated in an avian flu conference in mid June in Hanoi.He reported that avian flu in southern Vietnam is well in check, but that efforts in northern Vietnam need “strengthening with measures other than vaccination, and the cost of vaccination cannot continue to be entirely supported by public funds only,” the article states.See also: Aug 11 FAO statement on H5N1 strain in Nigeriahttp://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2008/1000909/index.htmlJul 25 issue of FAO’s AIDEnewshttp://www.fao.org/docs/eims/upload/246457/aj097e00.pdfJul 25 CIDRAP News story “Nigeria finds H5N1 in bird markets”
…as relief efforts continue in affected locationsAs floodwaters recede in several locations across Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni), the Indigenous community of Kanapang remains under threat, given the reduced access to the area.Guyana Times was on Sunday informed that deploying relief to this community has proved to be a challenge as the roads in the area near the Ireng River were washed away by the floodwaters.The flooding in Kanapang as seen on SaturdayAccording to information received, boats must be utilised to reach the flood-hit village via the Orinduk route. This publication understands that there were also reports of flooding in Cheung Mouth, Region Eight, but communication difficulties have hindered contact with that community.Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) Member Michael McGarrell related to Guyana Times on Sunday afternoon that relief efforts by a number of bodies were continuing to alleviate the flood crisis. He reiterated that some 22 families lost everything as their homes were washed away.“They are really in need of food and clothing. The Amerindian Peoples Association staff has been on the ground since Friday visiting the affected communities; the situation is really grim, we are appealing for more donations,” he noted.He further highlighted that his organisation has been in collaboration with the Region Eight Regional Democratic Council (RDC) officials to take supplies to the affected locations. McGarrell pointed out that the public can donate to the Amerindian Peoples Association, Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Ministry and the Civil Defence Commission (CDC).Residents in Chenapau get much-needed suppliesThe CDC and the Public Health Ministry, along with several local businesses and organisations, assisted the residents on Saturday morning, delivering food items as well as health-care services. The six main affected areas are Chenapau, Waipa, Kaibarupai and Itabac, Sand Hill Settlement and Kanapang. The water level in these six villages has been receding. Four planeloads of relief supplies were dispatched to Chenapau and Orinduik on Saturday, while relief supplies for Waipa, Kaibarupai and other villages were taken to the villages from the CDC’s Forward Operations Centre at Orinduik.The food items the residents received included farine, cassava bread, rice, tasso, corned mutton/beef, sardines, tuna, salted fish, salted meat, porridge stuff, milk, sugar, salt, Milo, Ovaltine, drink mixes, chowmein/pasta, peas, casareep, crackers and biscuits.Other needed items were identified as tarpaulin, mosquito nets, hammocks, sheets, blankets, towels, toilet paper, disposable napkins, sanitary pads, laundry soap/detergent, bleach, bath soap, matches/lighters, rope, garbage bags, water purification tablets, clothing, reusable plastic eating utensils, buckets and insect repellent.The Public Health Ministry has also dispatched several doctors, nurses, Community Health Workers and Environmental Health Officers to the affected communities. Junior Public Health Minister, Dr Karen Cummings had disclosed that the Ministry prepared flood kits which include antifungal creams, panadol syrup and items to prevent outbreaks in those areas.The CDC had further reported that several villages in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) were also suffering from flooding, but these communities were not as severely affected as their Region Eight counterparts.The flood-hit Region Seven villages included Purima, Kako, Jawalla, Phillipi, Kamarang and Duebamang. Region Seven Regional Disaster Risk Management Systems (RDRMS) and Regional Disaster Risk Management Committee (RDRMC) have been activated.A team was said to have already been deployed to the affected areas to conduct assessments and reconnaissance. Farmland in the main and some residential areas has been flooded in the Region Seven villages. The flooding in both regions has persisted as a result of excessive recent rainfall in the highland regions. Many of the communities are located in mountainous valleys.