‘No benefit from culling wild birds to control virus’


In response to recent large-scale outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in wild birds, the Scientific Task Force on Avian Influenza and Wild Birds has said there is no benefit in attempting to control the virus in wild birds through culling or habitat destruction.

The general recommendations concerning wild birds said all those with responsibilities for animal health are to ensure that there is no consideration of killing of wild birds, spraying toxic products, or negatively affecting wetland and other habitats as disease control measures.

Wild birds, including globally threatened species, are victims of HPAI viruses causing avian influenza. Affected sites also include areas of international relevance for conservation such as protected wetlands.

The Secretariat of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) have convened the Scientific Task Force on Avian Influenza and Wild Birds.

It was convened after the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 HPAI virus, plus other subtypes, including H5N8 caused multiple avian influenza outbreaks that occurred in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Israel, and India, a statement said.

Those with responsibilities for animal health were reminded of the advice of FAO and One Health approaches for communicating and addressing avian influenza (OIE) and international obligations under CMS, the Ramsar Convention, and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA).

The OIE means recognising that the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, plants, and the wider environment are interlinked and acting with a coordinated and unified approach.

Dr Ruth Cromie, coordinator of the Task Force said: “Avian influenza represents a One Health issue threatening health across the board. The highly pathogenic viruses are still relatively new in wild birds and this winter’s high levels of mortality remind us of their vulnerability and that working to promote healthy wildlife benefits us all.”

The recommendations for the poultry include a reorganisation of poultry production systems highly susceptible to avian influenza exposure that will minimise the risk of virus introduction and further spread; following the OIE international standards, guidelines and recommendations on notifications, surveillance, diagnosis, trade and control measures in responses to the HPAI in poultry and including efforts to prevent the spread of infection from infected poultry holdings to wild birds as part of the biosecurity measures.

Similar to wild birds, the recommendations said there is no justification for any pre-emptive culling of zoological collections in case of captive birds.

CMS Executive Secretary Amy Fraenkel said: “We look forward to continuing our collaborative work to minimise risks to humans, poultry and wild populations of migratory birds.”



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