With the emergence of H7N9 in Guanxi province in China, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have designed a comprehensive surveillance program for the H7N9 influenza virus in Northern provinces of Laos. To support development and implementation of this plan, U.S. Ambassador Daniel Clune met with Minister of Health Dr. Eksavang Vongvichit to announce that the United States will provide an emergency grant of $514,000 to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, through WHO and FAO, to support human and poultry surveillance activities.
The United States has been working closely with the Lao Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) since 2006, on H5N1 (Bird FLU), establishing laboratory and surveillance capacities critical to the prevention, detection and control of Avian, Pandemic and Seasonal Influenzas. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USCDC) continue to work closely with WHO and FAO, to support hospital based surveillance throughout Lao PDR and in poultry populations for early recognition of avian, pandemic and seasonal influenza threats. In addition, rapid response teams have been trained to quickly investigate reported cases among humans and animals with assistance from USCDC (through the WHO), which continues to provide annual support of $1 million to support surveillance, laboratory, and epidemiological capacities at the National Center for Laboratory and Epidemiology.
Over the past year, a new strain of AI virus, the H7N9, has emerged in China. In March and April 2013, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), with support from USAID, USCDC and FAO, tested poultry in Luang Namtha, Phongsaly, and Oudomxay. At that time, no new cases were found in poultry. In early 2014, however, one H7N9 human case was identified in Guanxi province bordering Vietnam.
Viral testing is being conducted in poultry along the value chain with China. Sentinel surveillance sites in all provincial hospitals are being strengthened to respond to suspicious flu cases. And viral testing is planned to capture H7N9 infections among persons working in the poultry industry. Comprehensive animal and human surveillance in the northern provinces of Laos, namely Phongsaly, Luang Namtha and Oudomxay, serve as an early warning system in the event that H7N9 Avian influenza emerges in Lao PDR.