Frédéric GRIMAUD, CEO of Groupe Grimaud, in his open letter proposes concerned authorities to consider “pragmatic mode of avian flu management” where minimum bird flu vaccination is a tool to cope with bird flu outbreak in Europe.
He views that OIE should reassess its rules and operating procedures in line with the current situation. Vaccinate free-range poultry which could possibly contact with wild birds. However, the vaccination should be prudently administrated.
The flocks should be officially inspected to prove their uninfected status.
Compartmentalisation needs to be implemented. Birds destined for export should be exempted from vaccination.
Implement regionalisation of uninfected zone to preserve exporters’ status.
Last but not least negotiation with importing countries on a case basis has to be done.
Subject: Management of the avian flu crisis in Europe
The year 2016 ended, as it began, with a proliferation of declared cases of avian flu in Europe.
As of today, hardly a single country exporting poultry (genetic or meat) is unaffected.
With each case identified, the scenario is the same:
- declaration to the national authorities,
- report on the OIE web site,
- depletion of the infected flocks,
- installation of protection and surveyance zones,
- prohibition by third party countries of all genetic or meat imports derived from poultry originating from the country, or in some cases the region, declaring the outbreak; effective until it regains its avian flu-free status, at least 6 months after the last declaration.
All this would make sense if the eradication procedure could be shown to be effective.
But how could a virus originating from wild bird populations (migratory birds) conceivably be eradicated? It would imply the elimination of all potential carriers coming «out of the sky», which is obviously impossible.
So, what should be done? Should we go on applying a rule that is no longer appropriate, that does nothing to solve the problem and increases the burden on producing and exporting companies a little more every day, or change our model?
Some decades ago, when occurrences of avian flu were for the most part isolated cases affecting few poultry farms, it was possible to envisage strict health measures. Today, when we see epidemics coming in waves of growing magnitude and frequency (for reasons still poorly explained), is it not time to change the paradigm in a very pragmatic way that can be expressed succinctly, considering that these viruses are not pathogenic to human beings?
- Ensure that bio-safety rules are properly applied on poultry farms.
- Vaccinate, as a minimum, all free-range poultry in contact with wild birds.
- Divide the flocks into compartmentalised groups, unvaccinated, of birds destined for export, or whose issue is destined for export.
- Submit these flocks to official inspection plans to prove their uninfected status.
- Negotiate this new pragmatic mode of avian flu management immediately, on a case by case basis, with importing countries.
- Finally, review the rules of the OIE in order to adapt the regulations to the new reality described above.
Of course, we could devise more complicated systems: for example, we could give priority to the regionalisation of uninfected zones with a view to preserving their exporters’ status, we could give special treatment to the duck, as a healthy carrier, or could exclude free-range chickens from the scope of the vaccination policy. But what would be the point?
Vaccination has been successfully used in the past to eradicate a number of epizootics: Foot-and-Mouth in cattle or Newcastle Disease in chickens come to mind, among others.
It could be a great help in solving this problem too, provided it is realised that, as with human seasonal flu, the vaccines would need to be adapted in accordance with the evolution of the virus.
Here again, nothing is impossible, since many countries already vaccinate poultry varieties against multiple variants of this virus.
With kind regards,
CEO of Groupe Grimaud.grimaud.com