The Caribbean region is considered to be at risk for avian influenza (AI) due to a large backyard poultry system, an important commercial poultry production system, the presence of migratory birds, and disparities in the surveillance systems. The Caribbean Animal Health Network (CaribVET) has developed tools to implement AI surveillance in the region with the goals to have 1) a regionally harmonized surveillance protocol and specific web pages for AI surveillance on http://www.caribvet.net, and 2) an active and passive surveillance for AI in domestic and wild birds. A diagnostic network for the Caribbean, including technology transfer and AI virus molecular diagnostic capability in Guadeloupe (real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction for the AI virus matrix gene), was developed. Between 2006 and 2009, 627 samples from four Caribbean countries were tested for three circumstances: importation purposes, following a clinical suspicion of AI, or through an active survey of wild birds (mainly waders) during the southward and northward migration periods in Guadeloupe. None of the samples tested were positive, suggesting a limited role of these species in the AI virus ecology in the Caribbean. Following low pathogenic H5N2 outbreaks in the Dominican Republic in 2007, a questionnaire was developed to collect data for a risk analysis of AI spread in the region through fighting cocks. The infection pathway of the Martinique commercial poultry sector by AI, through introduction of infected cocks, was designed, and recommendations were provided to the Caribbean Veterinary Services to improve cock movement control and biosecurity measures. The CaribVET and its organization allowed interaction between diagnostic and surveillance tools on the one hand and epidemiologic studies on the other, both of them developed in congruence with regional strategies. Together, these CaribVET activities contribute to strengthening surveillance of avian influenza virus (AIV) in the Caribbean region and may allow the development of research studies on both AI risk analysis and on AIV ecology.
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Vol. 54 • No. s1