Rome, 16 April (AKI) – The deadly H5N1 avian flu virus has been eradicated in almost all the 63 countries it infected at the peak of the world outbreak in 2006, but persists in five countries and poses a continuing threat to global animal and human health.
The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation's chief veterinary officer, Juan Lubroth said despite the considerable success achieved against H5N1 bird flu virus, it remained in Egypt, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam and China.
“The progressive control of H5N1 in such countries remains an international priority,” Lubroth said.
“Though public attention shifted to the H1N1 influenza pandemic for most of 2009, H5N1 continues to be a serious menace.
He was speaking ahead of an international conference on animal and pandemic influenza to be held in Vietnam on Monday.
“We should not forget that it has killed 292 humans, killed or forced the culling of more than 260 million birds, caused an estimated 20 billion dollars of economic damage across the globe and devastated livelihoods at the family-farm level," he said in a statement.
"As long as it is present in even one country, there is still a public health risk to be taken seriously.”
The H5N1 strain of avian influenza remains established in places where tens of millions of domestic ducks are found and there is significant industrial broiler production.
The H5N1 virus was first shown to have passed from birds to humans in 1997, during an outbreak of avian influenza among poultry in Hong Kong.
More than 90 per cent of birds who get H5N1 die, and mortality among humans is also high.