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H5N1 Bird Flu Could Continue to Spread

The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization says the high-pathogenic strain may spread out of the Indonesia, Egypt and Nigeria.

Avian influenza continues to circulate in Africa and Asia, and the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization warns that it could spread from Indonesia, Egypt and Nigeria. Those countries have been unable to contain the disease, turning them into reservoirs from which the virus can spread to other countries.

"The risk of a pandemic will be with us for the foreseeable future," said the
FAO's chief veterinary officer Joseph Domenech, calling for stronger global efforts to combat the disease.

Each of the three countries harboring the virus is in that position at least in part because of infrastructure problems, Domenech says. Indonesia has a weak veterinary service and lacks the resources to keep up with the disease in a country of its size; in Egypt, the government is not compensating farmers adequately for culling their poultry; and Nigerian authorities have not contained the movement of poultry in infected areas.

However, Domenech says there have been fewer cases of bird flu so far this year than a year ago, indicating a reduction in overall viral load, and the presence of H5N1 in wild birds has been less than last year when the virus surged, particularly in Europe.

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