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Avian Influenza

Volume 472: debated on Wednesday 27 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what advice his Department has received from (a) independent and (b) international experts on H5N1 virus surveillance strategy; and if he will make a statement. (188724)

[holding answer 25 February 2008]: The Veterinary Laboratory Agency (VLA), in its role as a World and EU Community Reference Laboratory for avian influenza, collaborates at an international level with many leading institutes so that information and expert advice can be shared. In particular, the VLA chairs and leads a working group, which conducts detailed scientific analysis of wild bird surveillance (AIWBS) data on avian influenza from all EU member states; this helps to continually advise and develop the European AIWBS strategy. In addition, the VLA provides direct advice, through its expert consultants, to DEFRA, EU member states, and the European Commission.

The VLA also participates in global projects to improve and continuously develop surveillance strategies with a particular focus on HPAI H5N1. This is achieved via a number of formal partnerships funded through EU projects, and also by close interactions with international organisations such as the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

DEFRA obtains expert advice on the ecology and biology of waterfowl and other wild birds from the Ornithological Expert Panel, which comprises representatives from the major international non-governmental organisations working in this field, along with Natural England and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

My Department also exchanges information with the Health Protection Agency and the Department of Health.