TOGO – Health experts from multiple African countries recently gathered in Lomé to establish protocols for investigating highly pathogenic influenza outbreaks, particularly focusing on the threat posed by avian influenza.

Supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), the meeting addressed the urgent need to combat emerging and re-emerging pathogens, including avian influenza strains.

The discussions centered on the recent outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza recorded in participating nations.

Through sharing experiences and expertise, experts evaluated investigation tools and crafted joint control strategies, which will be submitted to the WHO for funding consideration, reports Togo First.

Avian influenza, commonly known as ‘bird flu,’ not only poses a significant risk to poultry populations with high mortality rates but also presents a growing concern for human health. Certain subtypes, such as the H5N1 virus, have demonstrated the potential to cause deadly epidemics in humans.

The economic ramifications of avian influenza extend beyond the poultry industry, impacting farmer livelihoods, international trade, and the health of wild bird populations.

The policy of culling all poultry in affected areas, whether infected or healthy, to contain the spread of the virus results in substantial economic losses for farmers, exacerbating the long-term impact on their livelihoods.

In response to recent outbreaks, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently launched a vital online course on Avian Influenza in Portuguese.

Targeting veterinarians and veterinary paraprofessionals across Southern Africa, the initiative aims to enhance early detection, diagnosis, and response capabilities to avian influenza outbreaks, following recent incidents in Mozambique.

The importance of such initiatives is underscored by past experiences, including a significant avian influenza outbreak in South Africa in 2023, which led to the culling of millions of birds and a notable 30% reduction in hatching egg production.

Avian influenza is transmitted directly between healthy and diseased birds or indirectly through contact with contaminated objects or materials. The virus can spread through the excretions of infected birds or via indirect contact with infectious poultry and environmental contamination from wild birds.

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