The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)/United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) joint network of expertise on animal influenza (OFFLU) includes all ten OIE/FAO reference laboratories and collaborating centers for avian influenza, other diagnostic laboratories, research and academic institutions, and experts in the fields of virology, epidemiology, vaccinology, and molecular biology. OFFLU has made significant progress in improving its infrastructure, in identifying and addressing technical gaps, and in establishing associations among leading veterinary institutions. Interaction with the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Influenza Program is also critical, and mechanisms for permanent interaction are being developed. OFFLU played a key role in the WHO/OIE/FAO Joint Technical Consultation held in Verona (October 7–9, 2008), which provided an opportunity to highlight and share knowledge and identify potential gaps regarding issues at the human-animal interface for avian influenza. OFFLU experts also contributed to the working group for the Unified Nomenclature System for H5N1 influenza viruses based on hemagglutinin gene phylogeny (WHO/OIE/FAO, H5N1 Evolution Working Group, Towards a unified nomenclature system for highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (H5N1) in Emerging Infectious Diseases 14:e1, 2008). OFFLU technical activities, led by expert scientists from OIE/FAO reference institutions and coordinated by OIE and FAO focal points, have been prioritized to include commercial diagnostic kit evaluation, applied epidemiology, biosafety, vaccination, proficiency testing, development of standardized reference materials for sera and RNA, and issues at the human-animal interface. The progress to date and future plans for these groups will be presented. OFFLU is also involved in two national projects implemented by FAO in Indonesia and Egypt that seek to establish sustainable mechanisms for monitoring virus circulation, including viral characterization, and for streamlining the process to update poultry vaccines for avian influenza.
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Vol. 54 • No. s1