In an attempt to rapidly eliminate milder strains of avian influenza virus before it can mutate into more virulent forms, it has been proposed to broaden the target of the European Union regarding the bird flu threat. The joint decision has been taken by agricultural ministers of the 25 different countries that represent the European Union.
In line with the proposal, it was agreed to boost the currently existing surveillance of wild birds. This move is anticipated to identify the disease before death of farm animals, which would enable the materialization of appropriate measures to restrict further spread of the disease. It would enable culling poultry even when mild outbreaks of bird flu are detected.
'This directive will help strengthen our defenses against outbreaks of avian flu in the EU, to swiftly manage those that may occur and to minimize their negative impact,' said Markos Kyprianou, EU Health Commissioner in a press release in the form of e-mail.
The bird flu threat from the Asian region is said to have prompted for increased measures regarding detection and control of bird flu. If the virus is able to mutate into a more virulent form, then human transmission can take place leading to a global pandemic outbreak. So far no case of human-to-human transmission has been recorded. However, nearly 70 people have lost their lives due to close contact with poultry.
It has also been planned to stockpile drugs to effectively manage such an emergency situation. According to the World Health Organization, low pathogenic avian influenza can escape detection and spread easily as it is less likely to kill the host (poultry). Although such strains do not pose a direct health risk to humans, it can mutate suddenly into a highly pathogenic form in no time.
The agreement by the members of the European Union could eventually pave way for massive vaccination to limit the spread of the disease. The EU has traditionally been wary of such methods on the grounds that they may conceal the disease rather than eliminate it.