Breaking boundaries

Like disease, our eradication efforts should know no boundaries.

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With the rare exception, diseases tend not to go away; they tend to stay lurking somewhere.

Avian influenza is a perfect case in point. For many countries it has disappeared from the headlines, yet while the virus continues to actively circulate in some others, it remains a potential problem for us all.

The news late last year that influenza had been diagnosed in turkey flocks in both the UK (HPAI) and the US (H1N1), not only illustrates that disease knows no borders, but those farmers with affected birds had the double misfortune of being hit at the most economically important time of year.

In late 2009, however, there was also positive news for those concerned with disease control, as the European Commission approved a Euro 275 million (US$406 million) support package for disease eradication, control and monitoring schemes.

This year will see support go to 76 annual or multi-annual eradication programmes, which will receive Euro 174 million in funding. Alongside this there is increased funding for surveillance.

Euro 4 million is being made available to Europe’s Member States to assist with laboratory testing and wild bird sampling costs in an effort to control avian influenza.

The Commission argues that surveillance is the most effective way to detect early outbreaks of both high and low pathogenic influenzas and has been extremely useful in previous years, allowing early detection of the disease in wild birds before commercial flocks become infected.

But where have these infected wild birds come from?

In many parts of the world, avian influenza remains a serious problem and is not a rare occurrence. While the turkey farmers in the UK and the US that lost their flocks prior to Christmas may feel particularly hard done by, disease will strike wherever it can.

While nobody would criticize increased surveillance in those areas that are relatively unaffected by influenza, greater support and strengthening of international efforts, and helping those countries where culling flocks happens far more regularly may be a more thorough and more successful approach in brining influenzas under control.

Like disease, our eradication efforts should know no boundaries.

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