Azerbaijan: Red Crescent takes preventive measures on avian flu

تم النشر: 25 أبريل 2006 0:00 CET

Sabina Mahbubi-Iran in Baku

The Azerbaijan Health Ministry and Veterinary Service announced the presence of avian influenza virus H5N1 in Azerbaijan in February 2006. The number of affected birds is difficult to estimate.

According to the World Health Organisation, samples were taken from 11 people who might have been infected. Of these, eight tested positive, six of which came from Daikyand, a settlement of some 800 homes in Salyan, in the south-eastern part of the country. Five cases proved fatal, with four of those who died having lived together or near each other.

During meetings between the government and different international agencies, the need to raise awareness through leaflets and posters was emphasised. With bird migration and an avian influenza outbreak expected in April, the population needs to be aware of preventive measures to minimize the risk of infections in humans.

The Azerbaijan Red Crescent has a long-standing plan, which has been in place since December 2005, to combat the threat of avian influenza. A key part of this is training workshops, which aim to give Red Crescent staff and volunteers comprehensive information so that they can raise awareness and undertake preventive measures among local communities in their districts and regions. The training was held in Baku and four regions considered most exposed to the virus.

Other aspects of the plan include conducting surveys to find out the level of awareness of local populations on avian influenza - a poll conducted among 250 people living in Baku, Ganja and Sabirabad revealed that 70 per cent of them have general information about avian influenza – as well as distributing publicity materials for children and adults, carrying out health promotion campaigns and monitoring and evaluation activities.

Information about avian influenza and preventive measures has been distributed to all Azerbaijan Red Crescent regional centres and local committees. In case of observing bird flu symptoms, the message to the population is to contact state medical structures, the local committee of the Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society for further assistance. Several websites also carry relevant information, such as the Red Crescent web page ( and a local, popular web-news page, called Azerweb

The Red Crescent plan covers 24 districts within five regions (Lankaran, Sabirabad, Ganja, Mingachevir and Sumgayit). As part of this, 140 volunteers have been trained and will spread the message to local populations in 360 villages.

The Azerbaijan Red Crescent has also issued 3,000 leaflets entitled, ‘Attention! What you should know about bird flu’. Another 18,000 posters and 90,000 leaflets with the same message have already been printed.
“Scientists are worried that if the bird flu virus, H5N1, mutates, then it could be transmitted from human to human,” explained Matanat Garakhanova, coordinator of the health and care programme of the Azerbaijan Red Crescent to the volunteers at a training session. “This could result in a pandemic and cause millions of death all over the world.”

The sessions were also attended by Red Crescent regional coordinators, chairmen of local committees and representatives of local authorities, sanitation-epidemiological and veterinary departments.

“We have birds in our households and our wives and children are in contact with them,” said Parviz Mehdiyev, chairman of the Red Crescent Zaqatala branch, speaking at the workshop. “We are trying not to let these birds out, in order to prevent any contact with wild birds. Nevertheless, we are worried about the health of our relatives and need to think how to protect them. My suggestion is that we need special uniforms or at least masks and gloves.”

A veterinarian from Balakend district went on to describe how all employees of the veterinary service there have been given special uniforms. If any household bird deaths are reported, special teams from the veterinary and sanitation-epidemiological services carry out preventive measures such as isolating the territory and burning dead birds. The most important thing is that the local population provides information immediately.

Bringing the workshop to a close, Matanat Garakhanova told participants: “The next step is to take these sessions to the villages in your districts. Your assistance as trained staff will be very important. We really hope that our health promotion work will reduce the spread of avian influenza in
Azerbaijan and help people to protect their lives.”

The Azerbaijan Red Crescent and the International Federation country delegation are working in close cooperation with the Ministry of Health, the State Commission for Bird Flu Prevention, the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as UNICEF.

UNICEF coordinates its work in health prevention with UN agencies (UNAIDS UNDP) and NGOs like International Relief and Development, USAID, International Medical Corps, Mercy Corps, as well as with a number of embassies in Azerbaijan. One of the last meetings focused on developing communication strategies and messages and on training of youth and agriculture workers in preventive measures. This is especially important since there are reports that in the Salyan district most people are still not mobilized or aware about key issues related to avian flu.

USAID is supporting training in the field for veterinary services on surveillance systems and rapid testing. The Japanese government is providing support, mostly for laboratory equipment for six veterinary laboratories in the country, the training of laboratory technicians and transportation costs.