Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Bird flu: Are we sufficiently prepared?

Bird flu is now the greatest health crisis both for humans and birds. It’s also the gravest epidemic crisis faced by mankind ever. This not a secret and international media has been saying this for a long time. We can’t behind the argument that it will not affect us, that it will cause panic or adversely affect the poultry industries. It’s too late for such arguments.

Bangladesh has been in a state of denial and not ready to accept this fact of life and act. However, it seems it has finally woken up to the situation and is planning action bringing the business sector and BRAC together. BRAC is an NGO which is also in the poultry business and has an extensive outreach and network.

Planning is fine but ensuring implementation is everyone’s responsibility.

We are brining you the minutes of the decisions of this recent meeting courtesy of BRAC. But as the minutes show, we are very vulnerable because while many countries are already prepared to face any eventuality, we haven’t even fully begun. And we don’t have adequate facilities and support system including shortage of testing facilities, surveillance systems and reporting mechanisms. The public information system is also inadequate. Ready availability of disinfectants and protective masks is also to be considered.

Along with the steps suggested here, we believe the UN system must go public with the plans and allow public participation and action. It may not be wise to depend on governments and NGOs alone. This is a public crisis and the public must face it. To do so, the public must know as much as they can. And do as much as they can.

FAO and WHO are saying that with public support and awareness, the crisis may be reduced greatly. Instead of fearing to deal with it, we must act. Instead of panic, we must prepare. Instead of ignorance, we must know.

And immediately.

Afsan Chowdhury

Monday, November 21, 2005

Minutes of a Meeting on the Bird Flu Threat

A meeting on the bird flu threat for Bangladesh was held at BRAC Centre on November 19, 2005. Hosted by BRAC the meeting was attended by representatives of the various government departments including the Directorate of Livestock Services, Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, Bangladesh Agriculture University and representatives of the poultry industry. A list of participants is given in Annex I. The following were the objectives of the meeting:

To facilitate an open forum for selected stakeholders to discuss the bird flu threat
To share the actions (being or to be) taken by different stakeholders in meeting the threat
To explore the need and feasibility for joint response and to chart a plan for such (if necessary)
Specify the role of individual organizations and companies in such joint response.

Annex II gives the agenda.


Proceedings
The discussion centred around four areas of concern which are below.

Surveillance
It was informed by the GoB representatives that Bangladesh was still free from the H5N1 virus, as found from the surveillance that BLRI was doing. It was, however, mentioned that the current surveillance needed substantial improvements
It was pointed out that as GoB has identified 40 spots (which may in reality be less) where the migratory birds flock during the winter, much of the surveillance would be carried out around those spots.
The GoB has certain diagnostic facilities at BLRI and eight other field laboratories. The staff at the field labs have been additionally trained to identify certain diseases such as Ranikhet. If a new strain of disease is found in those labs which they can’t identify, these will be forwarded to BLRI for further diagnosis for influenza. However, the H virus can only be isolated at BLRI. Even the BLRI can’t do the N virus isolation. Moreover, the BLRI facilities are marred by perennial shortage of chemicals and reagents.

Awareness
The urgent need for further awareness raising was expressed by all participants. Some participants were in favour of an aggressive campaign. There was much discussion on the risk of creating a panic and it was agreed that while creation of such panic is of no use, the people should not also be deprived of information on the real situation about the threat, particularly about the health threat.
The meeting was informed that the Poultry Owners Association have already printed 50,000 posters and distributed those to various stakeholders.

Protection
It was pointed out that only a few large hatcheries follow adequate bio-safety measures. Such measures are almost absent on other hatcheries, the commercial farms and backyard farms. The 5 million or so workers who work on these farms and hatcheries are susceptible to all kinds of health threats, not only bird flu.
It was informed that the GoB has already banned import of poultry from several countries where the bird flu has been reported but such a ban should also include other ‘doubtful’ countries.
In case bird flu is found in any area, the standard culling procedure should be drastically applied. Such culling would be difficult to enforce in a country such as Bangladesh, but the GoB should pay compensation for the birds which are killed as part of such culling.
Vaccination was also not considered a viable preventive action.

Coordination
It was informed that a high powered inter-ministerial committee has already been formed. There were also other committees formed. Thus need for any further committee or organizational response was not felt appropriate at this stage. However, the recommendations/decisions of this meeting would be transmitted to the other committees.

Decisions
BRAC would work with the Department of Livestock Services in monitoring the bird flu situation in the 40 (or so) hotspots where the migratory birds flock. BRAC would deploy staff to work with the upazila livestock dept. in these hotspots to collect the blood/faeces and for onward transportation to BLRI (or local labs). DGLS will write to their relevant Upazila offices to this effect.
BRAC would provide chemicals/reagents to BLRI in case there is a shortage.
Kazi Farms would pay for airing any TV spots to raise awareness about the impending threat, as approved by the Ministry of Livestock.
The hatcheries which do not follow standard bio-safety measures (whose number is no more than 90) would be brought under an intensive orientation programme to be coordinated by BRAC. DGLS would provide all professional support including trainers.
The farm owners who still operate open house farms would be asked to transform these to close house.
For commercial farms and backyard poultry, urgent awareness raising and protective measures need to be instituted. BRAC would work with local DLS offices in coordinating meetings. Such actions would initially be concentrated in the hotspot areas (40 or less in number) and farms situated within 25 kilometres (?) of the bird sanctuaries would be brought under it on an emergency basis.
The farms would be requested to provide masks, gloves and other protective clothing to the workers who come in direct contact with the poultry. Also, promote other hygiene practices such as hand wash with detergents.

The meeting ended with a vote of thanks to the organizers of the meeting.

Annex I: List of participants

Dr. Salehuddin Mahmood, Director General, DLS
Dr. Quazi Emdadul Huque, DG, BLRI
Dr. Md. Abdul Motalib, Director Animal health and Admin., DGLS
Dr. Kazi M. Kamaruddin, Chief Scientific Officer, BARC
Professor A Jalil Sarkar, BAU
Mr. Santi Pongchaisopon, President, C.P. Bangladesh
Mr. Rayhan Chowdhury, HR Manager, CP Bangladesh
Mr. Shamsul arefin Khaled, Director, Nourish Poultry
Dr. M. M. Khan, Advance Laboratories
Mr. Moshiur Rahman, Managing Director, Paragon
Mr. Zeeshan Hasan, Director, Kazi Farms
Dr. Kazi Zahedul Hasan, Managing Director, Kazi Farms
Mr. Asghar Dada, M.M. Agha, Chittagong
Mr. Aminul Alam, DED, BRAC
Dr. M.A. Saleque, BRAC
Dr. Mizanur Rahman, BRAC
Dr. Mushtaque Chowdhury, DED, BRAC


Annex II: Meeting agenda

“SAFE POULTRY”

An Informal Discussion on Bird Flu Threat in Bangladesh
BRAC Centre, Mohakhali, Dhaka
November 19, 2005

Objectives
To facilitate an open forum for selected stakeholders to discuss the bird flu threat
To share the actions (being or to be) taken by different stakeholders in addressing the threat
To explore the need and feasibility for joint response and to chart a plan for such (if necessary)
Specify the role of individual organizations and companies in such joint response



Tentative agenda

Welcome

Bird flu threat – the latest status (world-wide and Bangladesh)
What are we doing in addressing the threat? – Informal presentations by agencies and companies represented in the meeting
- Surveillance (and monitoring)
- prevention/protection
- coordination/collaboration

What are the gaps (opportunities and need for further actions) – how we could work together?
Any other issue

BRAC actions on bird flu

THREE. BRAC is taking up the following actions on an emergency basis.

The 40 Hotspots:
GoB has identified about 40 'hotspots' where the migratory birds flock
during the winter. These are likely to be the major breeding places from
where bird flu may transmit to the poultry population. The following will be
done in these spots:

-- BRAC will help GoB collect bird faeces from these areas. The BRAC staff
will be trained by BLRI on how to collect the and transport the faeces to
regional labs and to BLRI. Measures for the safety of the staff concerned
will also be ensured.
-- Within a radius of 25 kilometres of each of the bird sanctuaries, all
poultry hatcheries will be identified and their bio-safety ensured through
training and persuasion of the owners.
-- BRAC will motivate the owners of the 'open house' hatcheries in these
areas to transform those into 'close house'. BRAC has 2 open house
hatcheries (incl. one in Savar) which will immediately be transformed.
-- For the commercial farms and backyard farms, BRAC will provide
formaline/bleaching powder to ensure bio-safety, provide masks and gloves
for personal safety and motivate on personal hygiene such as hand washing
with detergents.

Strengthening diagnostics:

-- BRAC will provide chemicals/reagents to BLRI to meet up their immediate
shortages (see minutes attached)
-- BRAC will organise workshops with operators of the 12 private diagnostic
labs
-- BRAC will strengthen its own lab in Gazipur in the future. ICDDR,B is
seeking USAID funding to strengthen their and BRAC's lab facilities.

Awareness raising:
-- BRAC will reprint the poster (with some changes to make it more
attractive) done by the Poultry Association and distribute it to all areas
particularly to the hotspot areas.
-- BRAC will develop a leaflet with key messages on the threat for wider
distribution

Urban areas:
As urban areas pose particular threat due to high population density and the
practice of open slaughtering, BRAC staff will motivate workers in the shops
that sell live poultry to respect bio-safety and hygiene standards and
practice accordingly.

Health surveillance:
BRAC Shushasthayas are being asked to report any 'abnormal' diseases
(particularly flu) in their centres.

BRAC is taking up emergency actions.

BRAC is taking up the following actions on an emergency basis. The 40 Hotspots: GoB has identified about 40 'hotspots' where the migratory birds flock during the winter. These are likely to be the major breeding places from where bird flu may transmit to the poultry population. The following will be done in these spots: -- BRAC will help GoB collect bird faeces from these areas. The BRAC staff will be trained by BLRI on how to collect the and transport the faeces to regional labs and to BLRI. Measures for the safety of the staff concerned will also be ensured. -- Within a radius of 25 kilometres of each of the bird sanctuaries, all poultry hatcheries will be identified and their bio-safety ensured through training and persuasion of the owners. -- BRAC will motivate the owners of the 'open house' hatcheries in these areas to transform those into 'close house'. BRAC has 2 open house hatcheries (incl. one in Savar) which will immediately be transformed. -- For the commercial farms and backyard farms, BRAC will provide formaline/bleaching powder to ensure bio-safety, provide masks and gloves for personal safety and motivate on personal hygiene such as hand washing with detergents. Strengthening diagnostics: -- BRAC will provide chemicals/reagents to BLRI to meet up their immediate shortages (see minutes attached) -- BRAC will organise workshops with operators of the 12 private diagnostic labs -- BRAC will strengthen its own lab in Gazipur in the future. ICDDR,B is seeking USAID funding to strengthen their and BRAC's lab facilities. Awareness raising: -- BRAC will reprint the poster (with some changes to make it more attractive) done by the Poultry Association and distribute it to all areas particularly to the hotspot areas. -- BRAC will develop a leaflet with key messages on the threat for wider distribution Urban areas: As urban areas pose particular threat due to high population density and the practice of open slaughtering, BRAC staff will motivate workers in the shops that sell live poultry to respect bio-safety and hygiene standards and practice accordingly. Health surveillance: BRAC Shushasthayas are being asked to report any 'abnormal' diseases (particularly flu) in their centres.

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