The ongoing animal and human health crises caused by influenza viruses of H5N1 subtype have focused the attention of international organizations and donors on the need for improved veterinary infrastructure in developing countries and the need for improved communication between the human and animal health sectors. The circulation and re-emergence of high-pathogenicity avian influenza viruses of H5N1 subtype are still major concerns because of potential effects on human health, on the profitability of poultry industries, and on the livelihood of the rural environment. Significant improvements toward the management of these outbreaks have occurred worldwide, including new legislative tools, intervention strategies, and investments in capacity building in both developed and developing countries. This has led to a greater understanding of certain aspects of this infection and of its pandemic potential, although we are still far from certainties and from resolving the situation. Given that genetic analysis of the viruses causing human pandemics since the beginning of the 20th century have indicated that at least the hemagglutinin gene was donated from an avian progenitor virus, it would seem reasonable to exploit the information we have from an animal health perspective to support public health policies. Possibly the biggest challenge we have is to find novel ways to maximize the use of the information that is generated as a result of the improved networking and diagnostic capacities. In the era of globalization, emerging and re-emerging diseases of public health relevance are a concern to developing and developed countries and are a real threat because of the interdependence of the global economy. Communication and analysis systems currently available should be tailored to meet global health priorities, and used to develop and constantly improve novel systems for the exploitation of information to generate knowledge. Another fundamental task the veterinary community needs to deliver on is that of bringing relevant information to international discussion tables at which international control and prevention are presented and optimized. The veterinary community has knowledge and areas of expertise that should undoubtedly be part of strategic decisions and are essential to manage the human and animal health implications of avian influenza infections.
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Vol. 54 • No. s1