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No Pandemic but Endemic - Managing Avian Influenza Outbreaks in Nepal

Miki Terasawa's picture

Nepal has faced seven avian influenza outbreaks in animals since early-February this year. In the Central, Southern and Eastern Regions, these outbreaks were quickly spotted by field monitors and successfully contained by Rapid Response Teams, thanks to the Avian Influenza Control Project (AICP).

The project is helping the Government of Nepal to prepare, prevent and control avian influenza outbreaks together with our partner organizations, including USAID, FAO, OiE, WHO and UNICEF. Implemented jointly by the Departments of Livestock Services and Health Services, the project is strengthening surveillance, diagnostic capacity, and prevention and containment activities, improving bio-security in poultry production and trade, and raising awareness through communication activities.

With support from the partners, the AICP has trained field monitors and health workers in 26 High-Risk Zones, set up Rapid Response Teams in all 75 districts, and trained the Teams in stamping out operations, including culling, safe disposal, cleaning and disinfection. It has also established a compensation scheme for poultry farmers, and provided pre-positioned Personal Protective Equipment, antiviral and vaccines for 40-50% of high risk occupations groups.

AICP was initially set up to respond to a potential global avian flu pandemic, which fortunately never happened. However, the avian flu is “here to stay” in Nepal as this is the second series of outbreaks after those in 2009. With no pandemic, the Bank has recently streamlined the project, to strengthen activities which would help Nepal prepare and prevent the outbreaks in animals and humans.

Surveillance has been intensified at commercial farms and at district level through engaging farmer groups, which helped the rapid detections of outbreaks in February in 2010. The project is strengthening existing diagnostic facilities, including upgrading central and five regional laboratories equivalent to the Bio-Security Laboratories 2 (BSL2) standard and operationalizing the National Public Health Laboratory.

The communication campaign through TV and radio spots and a travelling skit team has proven effective in increasing the level of awareness among Nepali. Surveys show that 76% of poultry farmers know and follow practices to prevent spread of avian flu to healthy chickens, such as separating sick chickens from a healthy flock, and reporting sick chickens to vet or local authorities. Moreover, 72% of health workers and almost 70% of general populations wash hands after handling birds, before cooking, etc., which would prevent avian flu to jump from animals to humans.

As the virus actively circulates in West Bengal, Sikkim and Bangladesh, AICP is also actively engaged in managing avian influenza in Nepal and at its borders. In addition to the already successful communication campaign, the project is organizing trans-border quarantine workshops, and successfully conducted one in the West with Indian and Nepali officers.

AICP is making a good progress in achieving its development objectives through effective containment and intensive surveillance and awareness raising activities. The capacity being built by AICP will be enhanced through the Regional Training Program in Epidemiology and Bio-security, which is implemented by Massey University, New Zealand.

The Program will provide 70 animal and human health practitioners in the Region with on-line training at Master’s level in epidemiology and establish centers of excellence in epidemiology or "One Health" hubs in Nepal and other six participating countries in the Region to control avian influenza and other zoonoses that emerge through the interface of animal, human and environment.

These activities will complement each other to help the Government of Nepal to further prevent and control outbreaks in avian influenza.