Avian influenza (AI) is a listed disease of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) that has become a disease of great importance both for animal and human health. Until recent times, AI was considered a disease of birds with zoonotic implications of limited significance. The emergence and spread of the Asian lineage highly pathogenic AI (HPAI) H5N1 virus has dramatically changed this perspective; not only has it been responsible of the death or culling of millions of birds, but this virus has also been able to infect a variety of non-avian hosts including human beings. The implications of such a panzootic reflect themselves in animal health issues, notably in the reduction of a protein source for developing countries and in the management of the pandemic potential. Retrospective studies have shown that avian progenitors play an important role in the generation of pandemic viruses for humans, and therefore these infections in the avian reservoir should be subjected to control measures aiming at eradication of the Asian H5N1 virus from all sectors rather than just eliminating or reducing the impact of the disease in poultry.
Dennis J. Alexander—Unaffiliated Consultant Virologist