Two emergency regional projects aimed at containing avian influenza in the Asia-Pacific region were launched by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific during September.

The projects will promote coordinated sub-regional preparedness, surveillance and response to avian influenza H7N9 in poultry and other animal populations in Asian countries at risk. Conducted in coordination with development partners, such as the United States Agency for International Development, the World Organization for Animal Health and the World Health Organization, the projects will assist countries in the region to better detect, control and respond to the virus.

FAO said these initiatives will boost epidemiologic knowledge, surveillance and diagnostic capacity, and risk management, including preparedness and response, and risk communication, as well as coordination and collaboration among Association of Southeast Asian Nations members and members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.


Speaking at the project launch, Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO assistant director-general and regional representative for Asia and the Pacific warned the region that the "virus in China is still present and there is still a great deal not yet understood about this H7N9 virus. Other influenza viruses that circulate in poultry often decrease dramatically during the summer months, only to reappear later in the year during the cold season. Also, many low-pathogenic influenza viruses in poultry have transformed into highly pathogenic viruses."

Konuma called on the region's countries to ensure that they are prepared should the N7N9 virus follow a similar path. "This means that countries in Asia need to be vigilant - both for incursion and spread of the virus, and possible evolution to highly pathogenic type," Konuma said.