April 21, 2011 / 4:02 PM / 8 years ago

China, India need decade to stamp out bird flu-FAO

* Countries offer little anti-virus protection to poultry

* Veterinary services slow in detecting, responding to flu

* Each country needs tailor-made measures to fight virus

MILAN, April 21 (Reuters) - China, India and four other countries where bird flu remains endemic will take ten years or longer to stamp out the disease, because they offer little anti-virus protection to poultry, the United Nations said.

The H5N1 strain of avian influenza, which can spread to humans and kill them, remains firmly entrenched in Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia and Vietnam, while most of the 60 countries to where the virus spread at its peak in 2006 have managed to eliminate it, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Thursday.

The six countries have lagged behind in eradicating the deadly virus because of factors related to the structure of national poultry sectors, veterinary services and commitment to deal with the problem, the FAO said in a report. (www.fao.org)

The endemically infected countries have complex production and market chains, in which poultry are reared and sold under conditions that offer little protection from influenza viruses, and also have weak producer and service associations to support farmers, it said.

Public and private veterinary and animal production services are not always able to detect and respond to infections in a timely way as well as identify and correct underlying structural problems in production and marketing systems.

“The fear of H5N1 does not necessarily translate into concrete plans for virus control and elimination,” the report said.

The Rome-based agency has made specific recommendations for each country about measures to take in the next five years to move closer to virus elimination and has urged national governments and international donors to boost eradication efforts.

The measures, based on country-specific experiences in the past few years, are aimed at outbreak control and response, gathering and analysing information, disease prevention and risk reduction, the report said. (Reporting by Svetlana Kovalyova, editing by Jane Baird)

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