ecological reasons.” Small farmers, for example, are unlikely to comply with culling policies because their flocks provide a lifeline of daily income; they cannot help but focus on their immediate and pressing need to sell their birds (Soebandrio, 2004). On a larger scale, the economic consequences of early reporting—to a country or region if many animals must be culled, or to a corporation raising millions of infected, and therefore potentially unprofitable, animals—present a massive barrier to disease control. One country, for example, experienced outbreaks of H5N1 over more than 6 months before admitting the situation to the OIE (Sibartie, 2004). In California, poultry producers kept their knowledge of a recent H6N2 avian influenza outbreak to themselves due to their fear of public rejection of poultry products; meanwhile, the disease spread across the western United States and has since become endemic (Box S-2).
The need to remove economic disincentives to the timely discovery and control of emergent avian influenza strains is clearly established. Providing compensation for culled animals could, at least in theory, remove a major disincentive to reporting for farmers in developing countries (however, see earlier discussion of Thailand’s problematic compensation program). Several participants urged the creation of a fund by developed countries to compensate for culling of infected flocks in developing countries, as well as for the quarantine and isolation of humans should transmission occur (Meltzer, 2004). In developed countries, government-run mandated insurance policies, similar to policies currently in use to encourage reporting of Salmonella in eggs and poultry in the United States, could compensate the losses of poultry producers who report suspected or confirmed cases of avian influenza (Meltzer, 2004). Another option proposed by the OIE is to allow demonstrably biosecure regions of a country where avian influenza has been reported—or even biosecure farms within an affected area—to continue to export poultry products, because avian influenza is not a foodborne disease (Sibartie, 2004). This could, however, also be a disincentive for farms to certify the presence of avian influenza in their flocks and possibly their workers. It was also suggested that, given increased public interest in avian influenza, poultry from producers who can certify their chickens to be “influenza free” and their workers to be “influenza safe” through protection programs may be more desirable to consumers (Cardona, 2004).
Avian influenza vaccines increasingly are being viewed as a means of reducing the necessity for massive poultry culls, particularly in Asia. Together with culling, immunization can speed the eradication of avian influenza and, by decreasing the amount of virus shed by infected animals,