Health official says no birdflu in Armenia

Golos Armenii, Yerevan
29 Mar 06

Excerpt from report by Gayane Sarmakeshyan in Armenian newspaper
Golos Armenii on 29 March headlined "No bird flu cases"

An interview with Deputy Agriculture Minister Levon Rukhyan.

[Correspondent] Mr Rukhyan, there is bird flu in all the neighbouring
countries. How come that our country does not have it? What measures
are being taken to prevent an outbreak of bird flu?

[Passage omitted: Levon Rukhyan says bird flu has not been detected
in some other countries, Rukhyan says interdepartment antibirdflu
headquarters set up in October 2005.]

[Rukhyan] Once or twice a week we hold consultations during which
we discuss the epidemic situation in the republic and precautionery
measures and listen to specialist advice.

[Passage omitted: no poultry imports]

We have set up antiflu centres in 10 regions of the republic.

Veterinary surgeons were dispatched to 730 out of 930 villages of
Armenia. In the villages with no veterinary surgeons, birds and
animals are monitored and vaccinated by a veterinary surgeon from
the neighbouring village.

[Passage omitted: Rukhyan talks about vaccination and a hot line
which was set up, 200 telephone calls received].

We have a contract with a laboratory in Italy where samples will be
sent for tests in case of doubt. We have received modern diagnostic
equipment. A group of scientists submitted a programme of actions to
fight bird flu. We have issued recommendations regarding the bird flu
fight. Israeli specialists have visited Armenia recently. They were
surprised at the safety level in Armenia. To be short, everything is
being done to prevent the bird flu in our country.

[Correspondent] Why has the scientific stockbreeding and veterinary
centre not been involved in the work of your headquarters?

[Rukhyan] Three specialists of the centre are actively working in
our headquarters. We are cooperating with all the specialists and
scientific institutions of Armenia as well as with the international
and public organizations, such as the WHO, UNISEF, USAID, etc. Each
of these organizations has been helping us raise the effectiveness
of our work.

[Correspondent] What is the situation on the poultry farms? Are you
sure that we can trust their produce?

[Rukhyan] The situation on our poultry plants is normal. Sanitary and
hygiene norms are being observered and extraordinary precautionery
measures have been taken. Entrance to the poultry farms plants is
banned, birdseed tested. And there is no ground to abandon eating of
poultry and eggs. Nevertheless demand for these products dropped and
raised 20 days ago. People understand that the bird flu problem is
artificially exaggerated. Maybe somebody is concerned about that.

[Correspondent] Can you make any prediction? Is there a danger of
bird flu in Armenia?

[Rukhyan] It is difficult to say anything definite here. We are taking
precautionery measures but we cannot rule out an outbreak of bird flu
in our country. The next period will be the most telling because of
the migration of birds that will last till the beginning of June. We
will be safe this year if no cases of bird flu are found.

But we will need to be extra careful during that period. Anyway
we cannot rely on luck alone. We have taken the necessary measures
to prevent a bird flu epidemic. Teams of zoologists and veterinary
surgeons have been set up to monitor the resting and nesting sites of
the migrant birds. Special attention is paid to the river Araks [Araz]
as these are the southern gates for the migration of birds. We are in
control of the situation. At present there are no grounds for worrying.