Climate change, globalisation and lack of funds were identified as the three biggest challenges in combating bird flu, at the inaugural session of the inter-ministerial conference on Avian and Pandemic Influenza that began here on Tuesday.
Over 600 delegates — including 70 ministers from the public health and animal health sectors — from 105 countries and 20 international and inter-governmental organizations are attending the conference to reach a consensus on biosecurity and hygiene measures in the poultry sector to prevent the virus spreading to other birds and humans throughout the production chain.
“Bird flu could still cause a global pandemic and requires continued vigilance and control efforts particularly in animals,” said Jacques Diouf, Director-General, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. “The spread of avian influenza typifies the potential emergence of major health crises with an increased risk of pathogens travelling over large distances in very short time periods, favoured by globalization and climate change,” he said.
“Extensive outbreak areas remain… We are still uncertain about the precise role played by wild birds. There are real risks of viruses emerging against which current vaccines provide no protection. Finally, there is the difficulty of controlling the illegal movement of products and live animals,” said Diouf.
Sustaining and financing long-term control programmes is a major concern. “The World Bank has projected that for a reasonable level of preparedness for avian and human influenza, developing countries need to spend at least $ 2.2 billion over a two to three-year period, while international organizations need at least $325 million annually to support these activities. The current gap for mobilising resources for country programmes is $960 million, or more than 40 per cent of the identified needs,” said Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss.
India, he said, has clearly defined action plans for both animal and human health.