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Open Access The control of H5 or H7 mildly pathogenic avian influenza: a role for inactivated vaccine

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Biosecurity is the first line of defence in the prevention and control of mildly pathogenic avian influenza (MPAI). Its use has been highly successful in keeping avian influenza (AI) out of commercial poultry worldwide. However, sometimes AI becomes introduced into poultry populations and, when that occurs, biosecurity again is the primary means of controlling the disease. There is agreement that routine serological monitoring, disease reporting, isolation or quarantine of affected flocks, application of strict measures to prevent the contamination of and movement of people and equipment, and changing flock schedules are necessities for controlling AI. There is disagreement as to the disposition of MPAI-infected flocks: some advocate their destruction and others advocate controlled marketing. Sometimes biosecurity is not enough to stop the spread of MPAI. In general, influenza virus requires a dense population of susceptible hosts to maintain itself. When there is a large population of susceptible poultry in an area, use of an inactivated AI vaccine can contribute to AI control by reducing the susceptibility of the population.

Does use of inactivated vaccine assist, complicate or interfere with AI control and eradication? Yes, it assists MPAI control (which may reduce the risk of highly pathogenic AI (HPAI)) but, unless steps are taken to prevent it, vaccination may interfere with sero-epidemiology in the case of an HPAI outbreak.

Does lack of vaccine assist, complicate or interfere with AI control and eradication? Yes, it assists in identification of sero-positive (convalescent) flocks in a HPAI eradication program, but it interferes with MPAI control (which in turn may increase the risk of emergence of HPAI).

A number of hypothetical concerns have been raised about the use of inactivated AI vaccines. Infection of vaccinated flocks, serology complications and spreading of virus by vaccine crews are some of the hypothetical concerns. The discussion of these concerns should take place in a scientific framework and should recognize that control of MPAI reduces the risk of HPAI. That inactivated vaccines have reduced a flock's susceptibility to AI infection, have reduced the quantity of virus shed post-challenge, have reduced transmission and have markedly reduced disease losses, are scientific facts. The current regulations preventing vaccination against H5 or H7 MPAI have had the effect of promoting circulation of MPAI virus in commercial poultry and live poultry markets. In the absence of highly pathogenic avian influenza, there is no justification for forbidding the use of inactivated vaccine.

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Document Type: Commentary

Affiliations: Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN 55108, USA; [email protected]

Publication date: February 1, 2002

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