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More Nations Move to Vaccinate Farm Birds Against Deadly Flu

I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Until last year, only China, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam widely used vaccines in an effort to protect farm birds against bird flu. But now other countries are interested. In late February the European Union gave France and the Netherlands permission to vaccinate farm birds against the h-five-n-one virus.

Experts say vaccines might provide a good way to protect chickens and other poultry in areas where wild birds could spread infection. But vaccines are not the only way to contain the disease.

Another preventive measure is to keep farm birds sheltered, away from wild birds. Also, farm birds should not drink from open water supplies where they could become infected.

But animal health experts say wild birds are only part of the problem. In some areas, trade in poultry products might be a greater risk to spread the virus.

Experts say one of the best weapons against bird flu is information. They advise health officials to use schools and other public places to keep people informed.

Farm birds must be destroyed when an outbreak has been confirmed. Also, restrictions must be placed on travel to and from the affected areas.

Fast local action is an important first step. Observing biological security measures is also important. Workers involved in destroying birds must wear protective clothing. They are advised to clean all clothing and tools with soap for at least ten minutes.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says governments should pay farmers for their destroyed animals. This way, farmers are more likely to report possible cases of disease.

The F.A.O. says poor farmers have suffered the worst economic effects of avian influenza. In Indonesia, twenty percent of workers in the farm bird industry have lost their jobs. In Vietnam and Cambodia, meat prices jumped thirty percent after bird flu hit live bird markets.

Wild birds like ducks and seabirds are blamed for the spread of the virus in many cases in Europe. But in Africa, health officials are concerned that bird flu is spreading through trade. They point to a lack of disease-control measures among farmers and traders in markets. Infected birds have been found in a number of states in Nigeria.

The more people are around infected birds, the more chance for the deadly virus to gain the ability to pass easily from person to person.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter. Read and listen to our reports at I'm Steve Ember.