Since its re-emergence, HPAI H5N1 has attracted considerable public and media attention because the viruses involved have been shown to be capable of producing fatal disease in humans. While there is fear that the virus may mutate into a strain capable of sustained human-to-human transmission, the greatest impact to date has been on the highly diverse poultry industries in affected countries. In response to this, HPAI control measures have so far focused on implementing prevention and eradication measures in poultry populations, with more than 175 million birds culled in Southeast Asia alone.
Until now, significantly less emphasis has been placed on assessing the efficacy of risk reduction measures, including their effects on the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and their families. In order to improve local and global capacity for evidence-based decision making on the control of HPAI (and other diseases with epidemic potential), which inevitably has major social and economic impacts, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) has agreed to fund a collaborative, multidisciplinary HPAI research project for Southeast Asia and Africa.
The specific purpose of the project is to aid decision makers in developing evidence-based, pro-poor HPAI control measures at national and international levels. These control measures should not only be cost-effective and efficient in reducing disease risk, but also protect and enhance livelihoods, particularly those of smallholder producers in developing countries, who are and will remain the majority of livestock producers in these countries for some time to come.
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