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H1N1 influenza spreads throughout the world

24 April 2009 90 years of expertise

©FlickR,Yann Caradec

April 2009: cases of human illness caused by a novel strain of influenza A/H1N1 suspected to have originated in pigs, have been notified on all continents, announcing the start of a new global influenza pandemic.

From early 2009, the OIE worked in close collaboration with its partner organisations to respond to the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus that was infecting humans and pigs and was spreading throughout the world.

In view of the H1N1 influenza epidemic, the OIE encouraged all its Member Countries to step up their surveillance in order to detect any cases of infection as quickly as possible.

The OIE also recommended that adequate biosecurity measures be taken at farm level to minimise infection from humans to animals and amongst animals.

In accordance with its mission to ensure transparency and improve knowledge of the animal health situation worldwide, the OIE asked its Member Countries to notify occurrences of pandemic H1N1 virus in animals, qualifying this as an “emerging disease” on notification forms. The disease was not on the OIE List on account of its mildly pathogenic effects in animals and the doubts that remained over the origin of the virus.

Furthermore, the OIE ensured that all information on the virus and its spread was shared amongst all stakeholders. OIE Reference Laboratories and Collaborating Centres, primarily through OFFLU (the OIE/FAO joint network of expertise on animal influenzas), have played a key role in developing technical guidance for the international community, thus providing the animal and human health sectors with basic information on animal influenzas.
For a reminder

Joint FAO/OIE/FAO Statement on influenza A(H1N1) and the safety of pork

The OIE/FAO network of expertise on animal influenza (OFFLU) extends its competencies to influenza H1N1

The key role played by OFFLU as a technical adviser for the international community during the H1N1 influenza crisis was made possible thanks to the extension of its remit to all animal influenza viruses, and especially swine influenza.

The OFFLU network had originally been set up in 2005 to provide scientific support for policies applied throughout the world for the surveillance and control of avian influenza infections in poultry and other avian species, and to provide WHO with timely information on viral strains in animals. In particular, OFFLU disseminates data on virus strains of animal origin to promote the rapid development of vaccines in the event of a human pandemic.

The role of the OIE in crisis management

In cases where there is a worldwide spread of diseases such as influenza H1N1, first reported in Mexico and the United States of America and then very rapidly on all other continents, rapid and effective updating of available information is crucial. Given the complexity of disease-related emergencies in a globalised world, it is vital to identify effective strategies. The OIE provides countries with the advice they need to help them prevent and control animal disease outbreaks. Improving the governance of animal health systems, in both the public sector and the private sector, is the most effective way of safeguarding animal health and human health worldwide, especially when faced with the threat of zoonoses (animal diseases transmissible to humans).

Communication during the H1N1 influenza crisis

Since 2009, the OIE has been actively monitoring the evolution of the H1N1 virus in collaboration with its partner organisations to prevent the development of a pandemic.

Video - Dealing with H1N1: the OIE at work during the crisis

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