By Atom Markarian
No instances of bird flu have been registered in Armenia so far despite the alarming spread of the deadly virus around the world, a senior Health Ministry official said on Wednesday.
“There have been no cases of bird flu among humans in Armenia,” Vladimir Davidiants, the ministry’s chief sanitary inspector, told reporters. “Nor have we registered such cases among animals and poultry. We hold operational meetings every day to keep the situation under control.”
The Armenian government banned late last month all imports of poultry and eggs from Russia, and Turkey and countries of Eastern Europe that have reported serious outbreaks of the H5N1 virus in their rural regions in recent weeks. The ban had a limited impact on the local market as demand in those agricultural products is mostly met by Armenian poultry farms. But a newspaper report claimed that those business are already seeing their sales slump due to a growing public fear of the disease.
According to Davidiants, the government will soon approve a “national program” of measures aimed at keeping Armenia immune to the global bird flu outbreak that has killed more than 60 people and led to 150 million birds being culled in Asia. The official said the government has already acquired materials used for detecting the virus and drugs needed for mitigating its effects.
The virus is hard for humans to catch. But scientists warn that it is steadily mutating and could acquire the genetic changes that make it easy to pass among humans. The World Bank said on Wednesday that up to $1 billion will be needed over the next three years to tackle the worldwide spread of the disease.
Davidiants spoke to the press after a weekly cabinet meeting that approved a four-year plan of government action aimed at neutralizing potential outbreaks of seven infectious diseases in Armenia. Among them are tuberculosis, polio and diphtheria. Davidiants said the government will spend a total of $11 million on preventive measures such as mass vaccination of the population. But he added that such outbreaks have been rare.