Avian flu early warning alert agreed

Posted: 22 November 2005

An avian flu early warning system, able to alert countries and communities to the arrival of potentially infected wild birds, is to be developed by an alliance of organizations led by the United Nations.

The system will be designed to alert authorities on different continents that migratory water birds are on their way.

Special maps are to be developed for individual countries pin pointing the precise locations such as lakes, marshes and other wetland areas where the birds are likely to go.

Sandhill Cranes at the start of their migration north. New Mexico, USA.  John Isaac / Still Pictures
Sandhill Cranes at the start of their migration north. New Mexico, USA. John Isaac / Still Pictures
Sandhill Cranes at the start of their migration north.New Mexico, USA. John Isaac / Still Pictures
Armed with such information, local health and environment bodies on continents like Africa, Asia and in Latin America will be better able to prioritize their planning and response.

This may include the issuance of advice to vulnerable groups in potential 'hot spot' areas.

Advice may include recommending that farmers move poultry away from key wetlands so as to minimize cross transmission with migratory birds up to hygiene advice to licensed hunters on handling harvested birds.

The warning system, details of which were announced at an international wildlife conference taking place in Nairobi, Kenya, is to be developed by the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) with support and funding from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Experts from other leading organizations such as Wetlands International,Birdlife International and the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation are also expected to be part of the scheme.

Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP which is hosting the meeting, said:" Precise information on the places where migratory birds go including their resting sites and finally destinations is currently scattered across a myriad of organizations, bodies and groups. It is absolutely vital that this is brought together in a way that is useful to those dealing with the threat of this pandemicbacked up by high quality, precision, mapping".

"There are also important gaps in our scientific knowledge about 'fly ways' and migratory routes for some species. We need to urgently bridge that gap too. In doing so I believe this initiative can make a valuable contribution to the world-wide effort to deal with this threatened pandemic."

Source: UNEP

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