Agreement To Facilitate International Collaboration On Avian Influenza Is Signed

A collaboration between the USDA and the UNFAO will help address avian influenza among other diseases.

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A Framework Agreement to facilitate greater collaboration between the United States Department of Agriculture and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization was signed Wednesday.

The agreement, which was signed by Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf, will help address animal diseases, including avian influenza.

“This agreement will facilitate greater international coordination and collaboration on a broad range of agricultural issues and help to protect our agricultural systems,” Johanns said. “I believe the benefits will be immediate by enhancing the worldwide response to highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza.”

The agreement will also bolster the effectiveness of the Crisis Management Center in Rome, Johanns said. The center, operated by FAO and the World Organization for Animal Health, provides animal disease analysis and deploys international resources to prevent and contain animal diseases. The center is currently focusing on avian influenza. Three USDA specialists are assigned to the center.

Johanns also provided an update on USDA’s efforts concerning avian influenza. The USDA has focused on international efforts, wild bird monitoring, domestic poultry monitoring and avian influenza research.

As part of its international efforts, the USDA is hosting a workshop this week in Washington to prepare 50 volunteers from more than 15 countries for rapid international deployment to combat avian influenza.

Wild bird monitoring will include the 2007 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Early Detection System, which will be implemented in April by the USDA, Department of Interior, state partners and academic institutions.

Domestic monitoring includes maintaining a Smuggling Intervention and Trade Compliance unit. The anti-smuggling team works with the Department of Homeland Security to seize prohibited products, such as poultry products. Last year, the team conducted a total of 31 special operations, one of which seized more than 360,000 pounds of prohibited poultry products. In 2007, 70 special operations are planned.

As part of its avian influenza research efforts, a recent study conducted by USDA researchers and the University of Alaska concluded that the risk of the introduction of H5N1 avian influenza through migratory birds in the Alaska region is relatively low. Asian and North American birds meet in the same summer breeding grounds.

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