Last week in Iraqi Province Orders Stop To Poultry Production For 3 Months To Halt Bird Flu, we looked at the latest in what has been a long string of unofficial avian flu reports emerging from Iraq since last April.
Three months ago Iraq Notified The OIE Of 6 H5N1 Outbreaks - which occurred between last December and February - and which were the first official reports of H5N1 from that country in nearly a decade.
Since then we've seen numerous reports of massive poultry die-offs (see FluTrackers Iraq: Media report: 200 thousand chickens culled in the district towns due to H5N1 bird flu), but no new notifications to the OIE.
Last week's dramatic call by the Iraqi Minister of Agriculture to halt all poultry production in one central province appears to have unleashed a political firestorm, but first we've this report published yesterday by ProMed Mail.
Date: Sun 10 Jul 2016
Source: Albaghdadia News [in Arabic, trans. Mod.SMA, edited]
The Governor Wasit, Malik Khalaf Elwadi, announced today [10 Jul 2016] the prevention of the entry of live chickens and eggs to the province because of the spread of bird flu among people in the areas south of Baghdad.
He said in a statement that he "met Sunday with the cell's crisis of bird flu after receiving information and reports indicating the exposure of a number of citizens in the areas south of Baghdad, such as Al Madaen, and Al Wehdah Neighborhood, to this disease."
Reports of `the spread of bird flu among people' are always concerning, but the information provided by this report is pretty vague, and early media reports are often misleading.
Frankly, we've seen these sorts of reports before, and only rarely have they panned out. It's something to watch, but for now, only that.
Moving on, today Arabic media is reporting that Iraq's Supreme Bird Flu Committee is overriding the Ag Minister's decision to halt poultry production for `economic' reasons.
This (translated) report from Radio Tigris.
Supreme Committee for bird flu, decided to cancel the letter of the Ministry of Agriculture, which bans poultry for three months.
According to a statement to inform the mass of citizens that the Chairman of the Committee and the Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture and marshes parliamentary Furat al-Tamimi, attended the "Supreme Committee for bird flu meeting in the presence of Health Minister Adila Hammoud," explaining that "during the meeting decided to cancel the book, published by the Ministry of Agriculture to prevent poultry for three months."
The statement quoted Al-Tamimi said during the meeting that "the impact of this decision on the grave of the Iraqi economy and the large losses suffered by entrepreneurs as a result of the application of this Directive."
Tamimi called on the government to "compensate the owners of major projects after the validation of the injury in accordance with the Animal Health Act No. 32 of 2013 in order to maintain the sustainability of these projects which reflect the backbone of the poultry industry in Iraq."
While individual statements in these media reports may be in question - the underlying theme - that Iraq remains in the midst of a serious bird flu outbreak (at least in poultry), seems fairly certain.
Despite stringent international reporting requirements, getting accurate and reasonably current avian flu information out of many countries around the globe continues to be a challenge.
While these lapses are sometimes deliberate, designed to protect tourism or trade - or to avoid public panic - often they are due to a country's limited resources and abilities to mount proper surveillance, testing, and reporting.
For that reason we are often forced to rely on local media reports like the ones above, even while accepting that a free and unfettered press is an increasingly rare commodity around the world.
Add in the extra layer of ambiguity introduced by syntax-challenged machine translations, and varying degrees of hyperbolic prose, and the `fog of flu' can get mighty thick.Yet, imperfect as it is, the gathering of these snippets of data can sometimes tip us off to a situation months before it is officially acknowledged.
Such as we saw last March in Libya's Under Reported Burden Of H5N1 (FAO Workshop) which pretty much confirmed reports we'd seen 16 months earlier (see Media Reports: 4 H5N1 Deaths In Libya).
But as always, and regardless of the source, Caveat Lector remains the the watchword of the day.