WORLD – The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) have launched an ambitious ten-year global strategy to tackle the enduring and evolving threat of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

This comprehensive plan, spanning from 2024 to 2033, addresses the international spread and genetic mutations of the HPAI virus, with a particular focus on the H5 goose/Guangdong (Gs/GD) lineage and its clade. 

This initiative builds on the 2007 response to the emergence of the H5N1 Gs/GD lineage in Asia.

Central to this strategy is the One Health approach, which advocates for integrated collaboration across public health, wildlife, and environmental sectors.

This multidisciplinary cooperation is crucial for the effective prevention and control of HPAI. 

The ultimate goal is to achieve effective HPAI prevention and management throughout the poultry value chain, protecting humans, other domestic animals, wildlife, and the environment while aligning with the sustainable transformation of agrifood systems.

The scope of the strategy encompasses all HPAI and zoonotic low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) viruses, with a particular focus on the H5N1 clade. 

Key beneficiaries of this strategy include national veterinary services, wildlife and environmental organizations, public health services, regional economic communities, private sector entities, research and educational institutions, and civil society organizations involved in animal health, welfare, production, and zoonotic disease prevention and control.

The strategy encourages engagement with existing One Health Platforms or the establishment of new ones at regional and national levels, in partnership with regional quadripartite partners. 

The avian influenza situation has been dire, particularly in South Africa.

Since May 2023, outbreaks of highly pathogenic H7N6 avian flu have resulted in devastating losses, with approximately a quarter of the nation’s poultry population affected by September.

Layer farms have been the hardest hit, according to a poultry industry official.

The outbreaks, which began in Mpumalanga province, quickly spread to Gauteng, Free State, Limpopo, and Northwest provinces, leading to the culling of 9.5 million birds over the past year.

Traditionally, the industry has relied on a stamping-out policy to control outbreaks.

However, this approach has proven ineffective against the H7N6 strain, as noted by the South African Poultry Association (SAPA). 

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