Web Exclusive: Wake up call on H5N1 in Myanmar
The population of Myanmar is now facing a resurgence of the H5N1 avian influenza (AI). This time, they are being kept informed by their normally secretive government.
The last official outbreak was during March 2006 in Central Myanmar when the government was heavily criticised for being slow to inform the public. This time round, newspapers have published daily reports and warned the public to avoid sick birds.
Four outbreaks at North Okkalapa, Hlaing Thayar, Mayangon and Mingaladon townships in Yangon (Myanmar’s capital and largest city formerly called Rangoon) in late February were followed by one in Hmawbi township at Nyaung Hnapin 40km north of Yangon in the middle of March.
FAO claims that Myanmar has achieved substantial progress in early detection and response time, but says more support is needed to enhance its capacity to deal with H5N1 in the long term. It called for more intensive surveillance especially in Yangon and strengthening of laboratory facilities, livestock health services and public awareness in this impoverished South-East Asian nation.
USA has donated US$500,000 worth of equipment to fight AI, with a longer term pledge of $1.4 million. UNICEF and other NGOs are helping with the government’s public awareness campaigns.
The latest outbreak in Nyaung Hnapin claimed 1600 chickens, caused 20,700 remaining birds on the farm to be killed and brought the total cull so far to nearly 40,000 birds. Stricter controls on movements of domestic birds, poultry products, feed, eggs and even the trucks that transport these materials are required, said Tang Zang Ping, the United Nation’s representative in Myanmar.
The Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department thinks infection was carried onto the farm on contaminated egg trays used to carry small birds as well as eggs. Chickens, ducks and quails within a one-kilometre radius of the farm are being monitored and a ban imposed on sale and transport of birds within 6km of the outbreak, but officials fear this may not be enough.
Prices of chicken in and around Yangon have fallen by 30 percent in response to the spate of recent outbreaks. Chicken traders say the price of one ‘viss’ (1.6kg) of chicken meat has fallen from 3000 kyat (US$2.10) to 2000 kyat since the outbreaks.