The aim of this survey was to characterize the current poultry production and marketing system in rural Gharbiya, Egypt, in order to enable policy makers to design and implement disease surveillance and control strategies that are effective and suitable for the local habits and conditions in the area.
It is noticeable from the results that more than 80% of households in the studied population own poultry and most of them keep multiple species at the same time and place. Keeping more than one species of poultry at the same place is a risk factor for many poultry diseases such as HPAI H5N1, which is often asymptomatic in ducks and geese that can silently spread the disease to other poultry species (Swayne, 2007). In Egypt, since the first outbreak of HPAI H5N1 in early 2006 the disease is still circulating in the poultry population and has become endemic despite the efforts and resources mobilized by the government to control the disease. This failure in controlling AI in poultry in Egypt may be due to the implementation of control measures that may not be suitable for the current poultry production systems that characterised by low biosecurity. Another indication for the failure of controlling HPAI H5N1 outbreaks in poultry is the increasing number of human cases (WHO 2010).
Domestic poultry such as chicken, ducks and geese have been known as reservoirs and sources for many zoonotic pathogens that can be transmitted to humans either via direct contact with infected poultry or via consumption of contaminated poultry products. Taking AI as an example, domestic poultry are an important link between wild birds and humans in the emergence and transmission of highly pathogenic strains of AI that can be potentially infect humans (Webster et al., 1992). During the last decade all laboratory confirmed human cases with HPAI H5N1 have been associated with disease outbreaks in poultry and this has been also indicated by the genetic analysis of the isolates (WHO 2005). In Egypt, the total number of HPAI H5N1 confirmed human cases since the first outbreak in February 2006 until the 15th March 2010 is 106 with 32 deaths. The preliminary investigations indicate that most and probably all of them have been exposed to diseased or dead poultry mostly at household level (WHO 2010). Results from this survey (high proportion of the population; own poultry, buy live poultry for consumption, slaughter and prepare poultry at home) indicate a high potential exposure of humans to the virus via handling infected poultry either at home or at the live poultry market and/or contaminated environment.
However, our survey indicates that more than 90% of the population have heard about AI but only a small proportion has changed the management of poultry and 47% have vaccinated their poultry against the disease. Recently, it has been estimated that the AI vaccination coverage for household poultry in Egypt is very low, 1% in some villages and the highest is 25 to...