The 3 P’s of avian influenza Prevent, Plan, Practice

Avian Influenza has become endemic in many parts of the word. In it’s current form it has been around since 1997 and although thy virus types have changed, emergency response, management & control are still a hot issue. In this article published in 2006 in the US magazine Poultry Perspectives, the subject what to do during crisis situations is presented. The conclusions are still valid today and may help to prevent large-scale outbreaks.

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Fewer diseases through elimination: Euthanasia of sick and crippled pigs on the farm still a hot issue


For almost eight years, there is discussion in the Netherlands on the subject euthanasia of sick and cripple pigs on the farm. This article, published by Marleen Sleuwen in 2006 in the journal De Boerderij experts advise on this controversial subject, even today. Marleen was awarded for her contribution to create openings to discuss on farm euthanasia.

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Bird flu viruses could re-emerge in upcoming flu season

International experts recommend vigilance and promote targeted surveillance, market restructuring to fight H7N9, H5N1 and other threats. 16 September 2013, Rome – FAO has issued a new warning to the international community that the H7N9 and H5N1 avian influenza viruses continue to pose serious threats to human and animal health, especially in view of the upcoming flu season.

“The world is more prepared than ever before to respond to bird flu viruses in light of a decade of work on H5N1 and the recent response to H7N9,” said FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth at a joint meeting with United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

Heads of FAO Reference Centres, in Australia, the People’s Republic of China, Italy and the United States of America were also in attendance, along with representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Department of Agriculture.

“However, constant vigilance is required,” Lubroth said. “Bird flu viruses continue to circulate in poultry. Efforts must continue and be strengthened, not only in affected countries, but also in neighbouring states and areas with strong trade linkages. This is especially true for H7N9 since it causes no clinical signs in birds and is therefore very difficult to detect in poultry.”

Along these lines, FAO has committed $2 million of emergency funding supplemented by over $5 million from USAID to kick-start H7N9 response efforts. USAID support has enabled FAO to help countries at risk dramatically improve surveillance capacities.

“Several at-risk countries previously unable to pick up the virus can now accurately detect H7N9,” explained Lubroth. “Identifying the virus with consistency is critical to targeting control efforts and reducing spread.”

Dennis Carroll, Director of USAID’s Emerging Threats Program, added, “The early detection and excellent characterization of the H7N9 virus by Chinese experts has created an unprecedented opportunity to mount a coordinated effort to stop the further spread of the virus – and thwart a possible global event.

Significant progress over the past decade in forging national and international partnerships and validating interventions for control of avian influenza can be immediately adapted to addressing the threat posed by the H7N9 virus.”

Surveillance is key

FAO and USAID stress that more work is required. In the short term this includes continued, targeted surveillance and trace back throughout the production and marketing system, contingency planning and compensation scheme development.

“The emergence of the H7N9 virus serves as yet another reminder that new disease threats are not the exception, but a predictable consequence of events occurring at the human-animal interface,” said Carroll.

“It is important we continue to monitor future threats while at the same time improving the practices and behaviours associated with livestock production and marketing that can make it easier for diseases to emerge and affect animals and people,” he said.

“Surveillance is key, and with support from key partners like USAID, we’re making progress,” said Lubroth. “In addition to helping countries detect the virus, we need to make sure authorities can trace back the virus to its points of origin and better understand how the virus is circulating so as to design effective control actions. Where appropriate we need to help governments put together contingency plans for the possible detection of the virus and compensation schemes for assisting those affected by control efforts.”

In the longer-term fight against H7N9 and other viruses, FAO and USAID are urging countries to invest in improving the way they market and sell poultry.

“We need keep our eyes on the bigger picture of promoting healthy food systems, especially when it comes to animal production and marketing,” said Lubroth. “Restructuring can create healthier, safer markets by developing facilities that employ proper food safety and hygiene measures. Since animals, and therefore viruses, are inevitably gathered at markets, keeping these markets clean and safe reduces the chances for viruses and other pathogens to spread. Healthy markets mean healthy birds, and that means improved public health, better food security and more sustainable livelihoods.”

FAO continues its call for funds to bolster the global H7N9 response. FAO is urging countries to make key investments in improving markets and promoting healthy food systems to fight viruses affecting animals and humans as part of overarching efforts to ensure the animal sector realizes its potential in the promotion of healthy and productive lives.

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FAO launches emergency projects to fight H7N9 avian flu

Initiatives to help Asian countries improve virus detection, control and response

Bangkok, Thailand, 18 Sep 2013 — Two emergency regional projects* aimed at containing avian influenza were launched today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific at a three-day workshop. The meeting was attended by veterinary experts from countries in the sub-regions of Southeast and South Asia and from a number of international organizations and development partners.

Working in coordination with development partners such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), these FAO projects will promote coordinated sub-regional preparedness, surveillance and response to A(H7N9) in poultry and other animal populations in Asian countries at risk. The projects will assist countries in the region to better detect, control and respond to the virus.

The emergence of A(H7N9) influenza in China raises the possibility that the virus could spread to a number of countries in the region which are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). FAO said these initiatives will boost epidemiologic knowledge, surveillance and diagnostic capacity and risk management, including preparedness and response, risk communication, as well as coordination and collaboration among ASEAN and SAARC countries and between animal and human health authorities.

Countries in Asia must remain vigilant in light of possible re-emergence of A(H7N9)

Speaking at the workshop project launch, Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, warned the region that the “virus in China is still present and there is still a great deal not yet understood about this H7N9 virus. Other influenza viruses that circulate in poultry often decrease dramatically during the summer months, only to reappear later in the year during cold season. Also, many low pathogenic influenza viruses in poultry have transformed into highly pathogenic viruses.”

Konuma called on countries in the region to ensure that they are prepared should the H7N9 virus follow a similar path. “This means that all countries in Asia need to be vigilant– both for incursion and spread of the virus, and possible evolution to highly pathogenic type.”

Preparation needed in case there is a resurgence of the A(H7N9) virus

Konuma urged veterinary experts at the workshop to “discuss how to adjust surveillance and response mechanisms and to prepare for a possible resurgence of H7N9 suggesting that participants identify synergies of the human health, animal health and other sectors among the countries in the region and between the countries and the relevant international organizations.”

He added that the “sharing of information and the coordination that takes place at this meeting, and through the period of these projects, will lead to further improvements in infectious disease detection and response so that, as a global community, we will be better prepared for immediate action and early containment the next time a new disease emerges.”

*Emergency Assistance for Surveillance of Influenza A(H7N9) Virus in Poultry and Animal Populations in Southeast Asia – TCP/RAS/3406(E) and Emergency Assistance for Surveillance of Influenza A(H7N9) Virus in Poultry and Animal Populations in South Asia – TCP/RAS/3407(E)

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Euthanaseren van verzwakte varkens nog steeds een taboe

Al bijna 8 jaar wordt er in Nederland gediscussieerd over het vroegtijdig afscheid nemen van zieke varkens door middel van Euthanasie. In het artikel van Marleen van Sleuwen uit 2006, gepubliceerd in het vakblad De Boerderij adviseren deskundigen om ook op gewone bedrijven vaker kwakkeldieren te laten doden. Marleen werd indertijd beloond met journalistieke prijs voor de moet om dit onderwerp op de kaart te zetten.

Ondanks dat de EU tegenwoordig aan de lidstaten meer ruimte biedt om met het toestaan van alternatieven voor het gebruik van T61, toegediend door een dierenarts, blijkt dat in Nederland alleen het schietmasker gebruikt mag worden voor het verdoven van varkens.

De uiteindelijke dood van het dier moet vervolgens gebeuren door het toepassen van pithing. Een term die bewust niet in het Nederlands vertaald wordt. Volgens de definitie in art.2 van Verordening EU 1099/2009 betekent pithing: beschadiging van het weefsel van het centrale zenuwstelsel en het ruggenmerg met een lang en staafvormig, in de schedelholte ingebracht instrument. Het doden van biggen op het bedrijf zonder de inzet van een dierenarts (T61) is onmogelijk geworden omdat er voor biggen geen schietmasker in dit formaat bestaat.

De huidige Nederlandse wetgeving heeft de EU verordening beperkt tot het gebruik van T61 en verdoven met een schietmasker, gevolgd door het doden door middel van Pithing. Dit blijft zo totdat de nieuwe Wet houders van dieren wordt aangenomen in de eerste kamer. Persoonlijk vind ik dat van geen enkele boer kan en mag verwachten dat hij deze handeling uitvoert.

Ondanks de werkgroep die zich blijkens het artikel van Marleen van Sleuwen in 2006 over dit probleem boog en ondanks de Taskforce die Nederland in november 2012 naar dit probleem laat kijken lijkt dit dilemma nog steeds onoplosbaar. Totdat de wet Houders van Dieren wordt aangenomen bestaat er geren alternatief voor het inhuren van de dierenarts. Het euthanaseren van elk kwakkelvarken en elke zieke of verzwakte big wordt ongewild maar genadeloos gedegradeerd tot een kostenpost voor de boer.

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Ways in which seasonal and pandemic influenza infections differ

On September 2, Iam McKay published on his blog Virology Downunder an intersting commend an article in the American Journal of Pathology by Gao et al, Kevin Hartshorn nicely summarizes some of the possible reasons why a pandemic influenza kills otherwise healthy young adults more often than a seasonal influenza does.

Intersting read! In commenting on another article in the American Journal of Pathology but Gao et al, Kevin Hartshorn nicely summarizes some of the possible reasons why a pandemic influenza kills otherwise healthy young adults more often than a seasonal influenza does. The answer is as complex as the milieu of interactions between viral proteins and nucleic acids and our innate and adaptive immune systems, our health, genetic factors, environmental factors and our prior exposure to different influenza viruses – and that’s pretty complex!

Hartshorn categorizes the differences between seasonal and emerging influenza impact in young adults using 3 sections:

Differences in their ability to cause disease (pathogenicity).
pandemic influenza generally kill more young adults whereas seasonal influenza kills mostly the elderly and the young.
This is also apparent in ferret animal models
The viral haemagglutin (HA) protein is key to pathogenesis, playing a central role in pathology due to immune responses and inflammation whereas increases in viral replication are due to the viral replication complex (including PB1, PB2 and PA). Glycosylation of HA is a key pathogenicity determinant because a lack of apical glycosylation allows viral escape from a major non-specific defence; the action of surfacant protein D.

Differences in the way the infected host responds to them.
Pregnant mice and humans show increased severity of disease. This may relate to a reduced innate immune response to pandemic influenza. Bypassing innate immunity may also allow the virus to bypass a key regulatory process, leading to a more over-reactive inflammation.

Differences in past history of influenza virus exposures
Possibly, even with a strong immune cell response, the absence of any prior exposure to a related influenza results in the absence of any cross-protective neutralizing antibodies – the type that can moderate disease – in younger adults compared to older adults. The elderly may have such antibodies from exposures to other H1N1 strains between 1918 and 1957.

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