U.N. warns H5N1 may take a decade to eliminate

According to a report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, eliminating highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza from poultry in the six countries where the virus is endemic will take a decade or longer.

A working group of member states of the World Health Organization also agreed in April on a framework to ensure countries will share samples of influenza viruses, the American Veterinary Medical Association reports. As of 2006, 60 countries reported the presence of the H5N1 influenza A virus subtype, according to the FAO report.

The report examined factors that are behind the strain that is currently endemic in China, India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Egypt and Indonesia and suggests measures to move toward the elimination of the virus.

"The recommendations, which are based on lessons learned over the last seven years, are tailored to account for local differences in the poultry sector of each country, the stage of development of the country's H5N1 HPAI program, and national sociopolitical characteristics," Dr. Juan Lubroth, the FAO chief veterinary officer, said, according to the AVMA.

The April agreement on sharing influenza virus samples will position the world to respond more effectively to seasonal influenza and pandemic threats like H5N1 HPAI, according to the WHO.

"The framework provides a much more coherent and unified global approach for ensuring that influenza viruses are available to the WHO system for monitoring and development of critical benefits such as vaccines, antiviral drugs, and scientific information, while, at the same time, ensuring more equitable access to these benefits by developing countries," Keiji Fukuda, the WHO assistant director-general of health security and environment, said, according to the AVMA.