Consultative workshop on H7N9 concludes

Honl'ble Minister addressing the participants during the closing session closing remarks
Hon’ble Minister addressing the participants during the closing session

Thimphu, 17-19 March: A three day national consultative workshop organised in order to enhance country’s  preparedness and contingency plan for H7N9 concluded at the Rochog Pel Hotel. The workshop was felt necessary considering the increasing cases of H7N9 in humans in China since March 2013, which has caused around 119 deaths out of 384 cases reported. H7N9 is a new bird flu strain of the species Influenza virus A, an unusually dangerous virus for humans, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is more humanised than H5N1.

During the workshop, the current status of H7N9 in South-Asia and Bhutan, on-going emergency surveillance activities (January till March 2014) and preliminary findings of H7N9 were shared amongst others. The participants discussed the important issues and strategies for avian influenza in a brain storming sessions. They also identified the essential elements of contingency plans to be incorporated in enhancing emergency preparedness in the country. Group works on various scenarios to understand the real situation were also carried out.

The workshop adopted around twelve resolutions. These included the need to have specific regional platform for sharing information on diseases, strengthen coordination and collaboration both at national and regional level in the preparedness and contingency planning of infectious diseases, the revised National Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Plan document 2014 for HPAI H5N1 to include the requirements for H7N9 as well,  and the house proposed to seek technical and financial support of international agencies such as Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), World Animal Health Organisation, and WHO among others.

According to a spokesperson, concerned stakeholders are now well prepared and informed to deal with the situation if occur in the future even though there are still information gaps on H7N9. Risk based surveillance shall be continued particularly in chickens and wild birds in eighty one selected sites to monitor the spread and incursion of particularly H7N9 virus into the country.

More that forty participants including livestock, health and BAFRA officials along with the representatives from FAO attended the workshop, organised by the National Centre for Animal Health and FAO.

Reported by Tshering Doma with photograph by Choidup Zangpo, ICS

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