PARIS – According to the World Organization for Animal Health (O.I.E.), eradication of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 depends on the early detection and rapid response to outbreaks, including the slaughter of infected or in contact birds.

In countries where early detection and rapid response is not yet a reality, vaccination should be systematically used until the animal health organizations are able to comply with the relevant O.I.E. quality standards.

To develop the animal-health systems worldwide to prevent, detect and control emerging infectious diseases, the O.I.E. has created a "Tool for the Evaluation of Performance of Veterinary Services" (P.V.S.). The program is designed to evaluate national Veterinary Services’ compliance with O.I.E. standards of quality. This is critical to providing practical help for veterinary services of all countries to converge, achieve compliance with O.I.E. standards and put in place good governance of their structure and their operating procedures.

After a P.V.S. evaluation, members can request the O.I.E. to carry out a follow-up mission designed to provide advice and assistance to fill the possible gaps of their national veterinary governance.

The use of vaccination could last several years; however it will only be effective if it is applied to all poultry (chickens, hens, ducks, turkeys, geese, quail, etc.) and through appropriate methods, particularly the use of a permanent cold chain. Vaccines should be produced in accordance with international quality standards prescribed in the O.I.E. manual of diagnostic tests and vaccines for terrestrial animals.

As soon as national veterinary services are fully operational for early detection and rapid response using biosecurity measures in infected premises, vaccination must be stopped; it is not recommended to use vaccination as a long-term control measure since very often it contributes to hide the presence of the virus, O.I.E. warns. All vaccination campaigns must include an "exit strategy" -- a return to classic disease-control measures.

To post your comments on this story, click here:

[email protected].