Wildlife Disease and Zoonotics


Date of this Version



Published in CAST Commentary QTA2006-1 January 2006


The likelihood that the next human influenza pandemic virus will emerge from the Asian strain of the H5N1 high pathogenic bird influenza virus that is causing widespread outbreaks in Eurasia remains unknown. (See Glossary for italicized terms.) Because these bird influenza outbreaks remain primarily an animal disease, there is hope that a human pandemic can be prevented. Eradication of the H5N1 high pathogenic bird influenza virus needs to occur at the farm level in the countries where it is currently circulating. Funding of prevention, surveillance, and eradication efforts in the countries where outbreaks are occurring or in at-risk countries will provide tools needed to facilitate the eradication process of this virus where it is detected and will prevent further spread and subsequent economic loss. Most importantly, stopping the spread of this virus will decrease the opportunity for the virus to emerge as the next human pandemic influenza virus. Every new poultry infection, and subsequent human exposure, gives the virus an opportunity to adapt directly to humans or to exchange genetic material with other influenza viruses, including human influenza subtypes; either event increases the chances that the bird influenza will become a significant human disease.