Dear Martin/Devlin/Richard,

Cases of human infection that occurred in villages in China, Thailand, Turkey and Viet Nam before poultry cases were reported, but detected retrospectively, provide the visible evidence of non-reporting in the smallholder/backyard sector. Humans should not be the sentinels for infection in poultry but, repeatedly, this has been the case.

In Viet Nam where I am working at present (incidentally, working on ways to protect the livelihood of the millions of households involved in rearing scavenging poultry) the Department of Livestock Production estimates that about 20% of the total chicken population(close to 40 million poultry) is in “semi-intensive” commercial flocks containing between 100 and 300 poultry. These are not part of integrated operations and are the flocks most at risk from H5N1 avian influenza because of their system of production and method of marketing. Ways need to be found to protect these poultry and some basic biosecurity (and vaccination) help to do so.

These are the farms I was referring to in my posting and not the flocks owned by contractors working for integrated companies, which are usually larger and practice reasonable biosecurity.

Anyone reading the Grain article would be led to your conclusion that “The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu is essentially a problem of industrial poultry practices. Its epicentre is the factory farms of China and Southeast Asia”. However this statement is not consistent with the way H5N1 viruses emerged in Asia (through geese and live bird markets), with the lack of solid data on the exact mode of spread across Eurasia, with the key role of free ranging domestic ducks in the maintenance and spread of H5N1 viruses since about year 2000, and the occurrence of cases since late 2004 in Asia which predominantly (but not exclusively) involved smallholder flocks (e.g. cases in Siberia in 2005, cases in Thailand in the second half of 2004 – see page 8 of http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/subjects/documents/ai/AVIbull029a.pdf).
Have large poultry farms contributed to the spread of H5N1? Absolutely and they have not helped their cause by covering up some outbreaks, but they are not alone in doing so.

Finally, for your information, I had read the whole report on the day the news article was released. Unfounded comments to suggest otherwise are not particularly helpful in a forum such as this.


Les Sims