Published: 16 Apr 2015 | Last Updated: 21 Apr 2015 09:45:42

Professor Dirk Pfeiffer and Dr Timothée Vergne have been awarded a Newton Institutional Links grant by the British Council to work on the transmission of highly pathogenic avian influenza in free-grazing duck populations in Vietnam.

Despite vaccination, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 continues to circulate in poultry throughout Vietnam, threatening public health, livelihoods, and food security. Due to the high density of swine, ducks, poultry and people combined with low biosecurity and production standards in many places throughout the country, Vietnam is a prime location for virus evolution, emergence and spread. Moving free-grazing ducks (mFGD), which may be transported across districts, provinces or even across countries to feed on harvested rice paddies, may facilitate viral persistence in Vietnam and cross-border transmission. Surprisingly, little is known about the mFGD production system (particularly in the North of the country), about how mFGD flocks interact with each other and with other animals, about the value chain of the production type and about the risk it poses in terms of HPAI H5N1 maintenance.

The overall aim of this project is to contribute to the understanding of the drivers of the endemic HPAI H5N1 virus circulation in Vietnam by focusing on the mFGD populations. Its objectives are to characterise the contact pattern between mFGD flocks in different parts of Viet Nam, to analyse the trade network in the mFGD production system and determine how they are integrated within the wider poultry trade network, to assess the level of circulation of influenza A viruses along the mFGD value chain and to generate recommendations to mitigate the risk of HPAI H5N1 in Vietnam. To run this project, a collaboration has been established between the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in London, United Kingdom, and the National Institute of Animal Science (NIAS) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) in Hanoi, Viet Nam. The project partners will be supported in Vietnam by the Department of Animal Health (DAH) of MARD and the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).  

A duck farm in the Red river delta in Vietnam. Photo credit: Timothee Vergne.

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