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Lao Rural familyBeginning in December 2003, outbreaks of avian influenza (H5N1) in poultry populations occurred in seven countries (Cambodia, China, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam) in the East Asia and Pacific region. 


After subsiding in March 2004, a new wave began in July 2005, with an outbreak in Malaysia and increased outbreaks in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and China.  Despite aggressive control measures involving the culling of more than 140 million birds since September 2005, outbreaks have continued. The H5N1 of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) is now considered to be endemic in many parts of East Asia, with Cambodia, Indonesia, and Lao PDR the most severely affected. 


The first cases of human infection of H5N1 were confirmed in Vietnam in late 2003.  As of November 2006, WHO has confirmed a total of 258 cases of avian influenza with 154 fatalities, to which East Asia contributes a total of 219 cases with 136 deaths. Nearly all of the human cases so far are considered to be the result of transmission from birds or other animals to humans, although isolated instances of inefficient human-to-human transmission may have occurred in Vietnam in 2004, and possibly in Thailand and Indonesia.


The possibility of bird-to-human transmission crossing over due to genetic changes to sustained human-to-human transmission is real in all affected countries.


While the economic impact of avian influenza on economies in East Asia has been limited at the overall macroeconomic level, those who rely on agriculture and poultry—such as the poultry industry and poor households—have been severely affected. The deaths of 140 million birds from culling and disease have resulted in losses for the poultry industry in East Asia of over US$10 billion. Both Thailand and Vietnam have lost almost 20 percent of their poultry stocks.


Bali ducksThere is also a risk that tourism will be affected by concerns about human infections. In Vietnam for example, a modest decline of 5 percent in tourism would translate into a 0.4 percent decline in GDP.


Countries have responded to avian flu by preparing human epidemic and poultry control and gathering resources.  Regional organizations and international bodies such as the World Health Organization and World Bank have begun providing assistance.


To prevent the spread of avian flu, the focus has been on the preparation and implementation of integrated programs within countries, with a stress on country leadership and controlling the epidemic at source, as well as surveillance, containment, and a transparent communications program. As a result of the additional efforts to strengthen the capabilities of animal and human healthcare systems, the response to avian and human pandemic influenza can be seen as fitting into the larger development agenda.


The cost of the programs is about US$935 million over the next 2-3 years, requiring external financial support of US$221-US$404 million. More than half of these needs (ora bout US$100 million per year) is needed for Indonesia where Avian Influenza is now endemic, posing an immense erradication and control challenge.


Recent trends have been mixed. Outbreaks have continued in China and Indonesia, while no new outbreaks have taken place in Vietnam since the fall of 2005.


More information:
bullet-blackEconomic Impacts of Avian Flu
bullet-blackAvian Flu in East Asia - Country Programs
bullet-blackAvian Flu in East Asia - News & Events
bullet-blackThe Avian and Human Influenza Threat: An Update (21kb pdf)
     Section taken from the East Asia Update
, March 2006, pp 12-14.
bullet-blackMain World Bank Avian and Human Influenza Website

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