Home / Livestock / Poultry / Health / USDA, DOI, HHS share interagency plans for U.S. avian influenza outbreak

USDA, DOI, HHS share interagency plans for U.S. avian influenza outbreak

Agriculture.com Staff 03/21/2006 @ 9:43am

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt met with reporters in Washington, D.C., yesterday, to discuss federal preparedness in the event of an outbreak of avian influenza.

"We are closely monitoring the rapid spread of the H5N1 virus overseas, and we now believe it is likely that we will detect it within our borders in the United States," Johanns said. "It is critically important for the American public to understand that a detection of this virus in birds does not signal the start of a pandemic among people."

Because of the rapid spread of the disease overseas, however, Johanns said it is time to expand our early warning system in this country. To that end, a plan to expand the monitoring and testing of migratory birds was finalized yesterday.

"It is increasingly likely that we will detect the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of avian flu in birds within the U.S. borders possibly as early as this year," Norton said. "The Department of the Interior has been detecting avian influenza strains in wildlife for many years. We know that there are many strains of bird flu routinely circulating in migratory birds. Most of those viruses are at the low pathogenic variety that pose minimal risk to poultry and none to people."

Norton said if H5N1 or a similarly dangerous virus is brought into the U.S. by migratory birds, it will mostly likely arrive first in the Pacific Islands or Alaska, because of the birds' flight path. Birds would nest in the spring and summer in Alaska, mingling with birds coming from the lower 48 states. When those birds return south, they could carry the virus with them.

Norton, whose department includes state Fish and Game agencies, said the Interagency Strategic Plan for early detection uses five major strategies -- testing wild birds that are sick or have died; sample testing of live wild birds; sample testing of hunter-killed birds; monitoring and testing of sentinel animals; and testing of environmental samples.

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt met with reporters in Washington, D.C., yesterday, to discuss federal preparedness in the event of an outbreak of avian influenza.

A detection of H5N1 in wild birds would not mean that commercial poultry would be affected, Johanns said. "The U.S. poultry industry is much better positioned to deal with bird flu than many countries currently affected by the high path H5N1 virus."

Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt described the avian influenza outbreak around the world like this: "At this point if you are a bird it's a pandemic. If you're a human being, it's not. Simple as that."

"If you leave here today remembering nothing else that I tell you, I hope you'll remember two points," Johanns said. "One, a detection of the high path H5N1 virus does not signal the start of a pandemic. The virus is not easily transmitted person to person. People who have become ill in other countries have had direct contact with infected birds.

CancelPost Comment
MORE FROM AGRICULTURE.COM STAFF more +

Farm and ranch risk management resources By: 07/07/2010 @ 9:10am Government resources USDA Risk Management Agency Download free insurance program and…

Major types of crop insurance policies By: 07/07/2010 @ 9:10am Crop insurance for major field crops comes in two types: yield-based coverage that pays an…

Marketing 101 - Are options the right tool… By: 07/07/2010 @ 9:10am "If you are looking for a low risk way to protect yourself against prices moving either higher or…

MEDIA CENTERmore +
This container should display a .swf file. If not, you may need to upgrade your Flash player.
Cool Tools Christmas Edition: Part 2