Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Iranian MOA Reports 21 Million Birds Lost To H5N8


Officially, Iran hasn't notified the OIE of any new H5N8 outbreaks in nearly a year, having last reported 30 outbreaks between November 2016-January 2017 (see OIE report) involving the loss of just over 1 million birds.
Despite this silence, we've continued to see sporadic media reports - and occasional admissions by their Ministry of Agriculture - that large outbreaks of avian flu have continued around the county. 
In early February of last year, in H5N8 & H5N1: Murmurs From The Middle East, we saw media reports (via IRNA the official news agency of the Islamic Republic of Iran) reporting their losses had reached 6 million birds.

A few weeks later, in Iran: Media Reports Of H5N8's Spread, we saw warnings (via Iran's Press TV) going out to the public to avoid contact with wild birds or migratory birds (living or dead), to stop using local poultry products “until further notice.”, and to only consume chickens and eggs that have certification from the Iran Veterinary Organization or the Ministry of Agriculture.

Just over a month ago, in Iran's Hidden Bird Flu Burden, we looked at a brief report from the FARS news agency that (along with excerpts from an MOA statement) that indicated between 21 March  - December 24, 2017 poultry losses in the country had jumped to over 12 million birds. 
Which, when combined with the reports prior to March 31st, would put their losses over the past year somewhere around 18 million birds.
In early January, in Iranian MOA: 14 Million Birds Lost To Avian Flu, we saw another admission from the MOA that the losses (again, presumably since March 31st) had climbed by another 2 million birds.
Avian flu losses have been so great this year, and have driven poultry and egg prices up so high, that it has even been cited as at least one of the reasons behind the citizen protests that sprang up across the country in late December (see Iran: Bird Flu, Food Insecurity & Civil Unrest).
Fast forward a little over 3 weeks and today we have a statement by the MOA - which appears about halfway through a list of agenda items being discussed - indicating the number of birds lost has now reached 21 million.

A translation of the excerpt follows:

According to the latest reports, more than 21 million chicken poultry have been eliminated from the infectious disease of the H5N8 avian influenza virus in order to prevent the outbreak of the disease, the head of the country's veterinary organization said. .

He said: Of the total poultry affected by the disease, 73% of it was related to laying hens.

Rafieeipour said that more than 16 provinces of the country have been involved in the suprapubic disease of birds, said that 421 cases of this disease have been identified in the provinces, 114 of which are in Qom province.

He continued: there is a possibility of an outbreak of this disease in the provinces of Qom, Isfahan and Yazd.

Although no time span is explicitly stated in today's report, in  December the totals were stated as coming between March 31st - December 24th. If you add in the 6 million birds supposedly lost between November 2016-March 2017, Iran may have lost as many as 27 million birds in the past 14 months.

Despite international agreements mandating the prompt reporting of certain animal diseases (including H5 & H7 avian flu)  to the OIE, and specific human diseases (and outbreaks) to the World Health Organization, these regulations are notoriously lacking in `teeth’.
Nations agree to abide, but there is little recourse if they don’t follow through - a topic we looked at in depth in 2015 in Adding Accountability To The IHR.
While for some countries this can be attributed to a lack of money, or surveillance and reporting infrastructure . . .  sometimes it seems to simply boil down to policy (see 2008's  WHO: Indonesia Agrees To Resume Bird Flu Notifications). 

A reminder that when it comes to infectious disease threats - while it may sometimes be comforting -  no news isn't always good news.

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