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2022-8-20 0:37:47

Bird flu could become endemic in Africa: FAO
submited by wanglh at May, 31, 2006 23:4 PM from Reuters

ROME (Reuters) - Bird flu may become a permanent feature in Africa and spread to other continents due to lack of funds to fight the deadly disease, a senior Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) official said on Tuesday.

Since re-emerging in Asia in late 2003, the virus has spread especially fast in the past six months, moving into parts of the Middle East, Europe and Africa. It has killed 127 people, according to the World Health Organization.

"Africa is the continent where are really worried to see endemicity becoming established," FAO´s Chief of Animal Health Services Joseph Domenech told Reuters Television in an interview.

"If this is the case, it will be a new plague for African farmers and will be a permanent reservoir for re-infection to other regions through trade and wild birds."

Domenech said the continent was particularly vulnerable to the deadly H5N1 bird flu because of lack of funds and people to monitor and fight the virus. He said other countries should focus efforts on helping Africa to eradicate the disease.

"The risk (of bird flu spreading) is everywhere, but Africa is the most worrying region. We have a risk of permanent endemicity there. We have a risk of new countries being infected," Domenech said.

He said human-to-human transmission of bird flu has not yet been proven despite a recent suspicious-looking case of cluster deaths in one family in Indonesia and the WHO has not yet risen its level of alarm.

"In Indonesia, it´s a very particular case. Members of the same family were infected, so there is a tendency to conclude that there was a human-to-human (transmission) but on the other hand it is not possible to prove it," he said.

Turning to Europe, Domenech said the situation was also worrying because of the number of countries being affected by the spread of bird flu, but efficient surveillance and quick reaction to outbreaks have helped to limit the infected areas and single cases.

"In Europe, there is a tendency to be quite optimistic," he said.

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