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CIRAD and its partners are fighting bird flu in the South

Between January and March 2006, researchers from the CIRAD Animal Production and Veterinary Medicine Department (CIRAD-EMVT) are having a blitz on bird flu in North, East and West Africa, the Middle East, and eastern Europe and the Caucasus, the zones covered by the five FAO-TCPs.

As Emmanuel Camus, Director of CIRAD-EMVT, points out: "the primary aim is to work with our partners in the field to see whether migrating birds introduced the virus at their overwintering sites this autumn ". To this end, numerous samples are to be taken from migratory birds and sent to a reference laboratory for analysis. Thirteen sites have been targeted for sampling, six of them by CIRAD and seven by Wetland International, an NGO working on wildfowl.

The aim is to assess the risk of the virus becoming established in the South and returning to migration corridors or reproduction zones in Europe and Southeast Asia in the spring. In particular, this concerns wild ducks, which could come into contact with the H5N1 virus at their shared overwintering sites (from October to March) in eastern Europe and Africa and which may pass through or nest in western Europe next spring. Training courses for veterinary surgeons and animal production staff are also due to be organized in the countries covered by the FAO-TCPs.

Moreover, a research project on the ecology of the virus and its hosts and the epidemiology of the disease is currently being drawn up in Vietnam. The aim in this country, which has been the most severely affected since the start of the epidemic in November 2003, is also to study poultry farmers’ ability to change their production system, to propose solutions for restructuring animal production chains, and to assess the sanitary risks linked to such changes.

Epizone, a European network monitoring epizootic diseases, has fourteen member research organizations, including two outside Europe (in China and Turkey), is also working on bird flu.

The EDEN (Emerging Diseases in a changing European eNvironment) project, coordinated by CIRAD, which is working on the risk of human diseases emerging in Europe as a result of climate and environmental change, is organizing a meeting of its partners from 24 countries, from 12 to 14 January. The aim is to take stock of the past year’s operations and, at the request of the European Commission, to draw up a new programme of joint action, some of which may concern Asia and Africa.

As part of the global efforts to fight bird flu, the Agence nationale de la recherche (ANR) in France has launched the Bioscope project, involving CIRAD and other French research organizations. It will make it possible to step up surveillance of bird flu transmission by making new modelling tools available to scientists.

Emmanuel Camus | alfa
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