Caribbean scales up preparedness plans for Avian Influenza

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Press Release, July 10, 2015

Caribbean veterinary officials and members of the poultry sector are on high alert and have been working tirelessly to scale up the preparedness planning to prevent the introduction and spread of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).

The Caribbean Animal Health Network, known as CaribVET, and the Caribbean Poultry Association (CPA) convened a three-day Avian Influenza Regional Preparedness Meeting in Barbados to review and further develop a regional strategic plan to safeguard food security and the livelihoods of communities across the region. The Meeting was held at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel 6-9 July.

Over the past six months, this new virus, known as HPAI H5N2, has been wreaking havoc in North America. To date, more than 50 million birds have either died or have been destroyed and the disease has cost the industry and governments billions of dollars.

According to the CEO of the CPA, Dr Desmond Ali, “CaribVET and the CPA have been engaging in increasingly close multi-disciplinary collaboration with its partners and stakeholders from the region to develop a comprehensive preparedness and response strategy. This collaborative approach has been endorsed by CARICOM Council for Trade and Economic Development  (COTED).”

National emergency preparedness plans had already been developed by the veterinary services in all of the countries and territories of the region with strong collaboration from the poultry industry as well as international and regional organisations. These plans are now being reviewed and updated in light of this new outbreak.

Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs) from the Caribbean met with their counterparts at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Baltimore, Maryland, USA from 22-26 June 2015, to examine the measures that are being taken to safeguard the supply of hatching eggs and day-old chicks to the region. 

Senior Veterinary Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture of Barbados and Chair of the CaribVET Avian Diseases working group, Dr. Mark Trotman, who chaired the Barbados Meeting, emphasized “more than 90% of the hatching eggs and day-old chick required in the region for the production of table eggs and broiler meat are sourced from the USA”.

“The virus is highly contagious and extremely deadly to chickens and turkeys; however to date there is no evidence that it affects people. Every effort is being made to make sure that farmers and producers are well-equipped to protect their flocks, should the virus enter the Caribbean region” said Dr Trotman at the Workshop.

The Meeting, which was co-funded by the 10th European Development Fund, "Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary Measures" Project, gathered representatives from the public and private sectors, regional and international organisations in agriculture, research institutes, researchers and other technical experts. Critical outcomes of the meeting include a concise checklist of measures that farmers and producers can use for the biosecurity of their flocks; guidelines for collaboration and strengthening veterinary laboratories for early diagnosis of the virus; sharing information through the Caribbean Veterinary Information System and the update of national and regional simulation exercises.

The Caribbean Animal Health Network (CaribVET) is a collaborative network involving veterinary services, laboratories, research institutes, regional and international organisations and private sector associations to improve animal and veterinary public health in all of the countries and/or territories of the Caribbean.


[This press release has been prepared during the Avian Influenza Workshop organized in barbados, 6-9 july, with the assistance of Barbados Government information Service and FAO].


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