The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced their commitment to $20 million in new funding to support the Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) battle with avian influenza and other emerging threats in global hotspots, according to a FAO news release Oct. 29.
According to the release, the US assistance will help strengthen preparedness and response to H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) with the majority of the money going to Bangladesh, China, Indonesia and Viet Nam to upgrade laboratory and surveillance capacities.
Funding will also be provided to the neighboring countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Nepal and Myanmar for surveillance and prevention.
“The US Government has been key in generating international support to combat avian influenza and to reduce the chances for a human pandemic by assisting FAO and others to address the threat in animals before it spills over into humans. Such support for basic prevention measures is rare, yet most sensible and cost effective,” said FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth.
Southeast Asia is considered a ‘hotspot’ region given already high population numbers and the rates of population expansion – of people and animals living in ever closer contact.
China is one example- it is home to half the world’s pigs, about a quarter of its chickens, 70 percent of all ducks and 90 percent of the globe’s geese. Close contact among them all provides viruses with many hosts and the opportunity to jump species, which in turn can lead to virus adaptations and eventually an influenza virus with pandemic potential.
The FAO says two out of three emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic, or have their origins in animals. Of those zoonotic diseases, 75 percent come from wildlife.
According to the World Health Organization, most avian influenza viruses do not cause disease in humans. However, some are zoonotic, meaning that they can infect humans and cause disease. The most well known example is the avian influenza subtype H5N1 viruses currently circulating in poultry in parts of Asia and northeast Africa, which have caused human disease and deaths since 1997.
Other avian influenza subtypes, including H7N7 and H9N2, have also infected people. Some of these infections have been very severe and some have resulted in deaths, but many infections have been mild or even subclinical in humans.
Humans are at risk:
- when people’s work brings them in contact with infected animals.
- when people contact infected animals during their everyday lives, such as when visiting live animal markets or when these animals are kept as part of the household.
- when people handle or slaughter infected animals, or work with raw meat and by-products from infected animals.
- when people contact things around them, such as animal housing areas and equipment, ponds and other water sources, faeces, and feathers, if these things are contaminated with influenza viruses.
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