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Cases require no special consumer precautions, experts say

Agriculture.com Staff 08/14/2006 @ 1:18pm

The finding of a low-pathogenic, North American subtype of avian influenza in wild birds in Michigan creates no problems for commercial poultry operations or consumers, according to the National Chicken Council.

"The finding is definitely not the 'Asian bird flu' that has caused problems overseas," said Sherrill Davison, associate professor of avian medicine and pathology and director of the diagnostic laboratories at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. "The most significant fact for the commercial poultry industry is that this finding shows the monitoring and surveillance program is working, and that if Asian bird flu were to get here, we would know it."

Mild avian influenza viruses are not uncommon in wild birds. The mute swans collected in Michigan had no evidence of disease. The highly pathogenic H5N1 strain that has spread in Asia, Europe and Africa has never been detected in North America, however.

Commercial poultry operations already protect their animals from contact with wild birds, especially migratory geese and ducks which are the natural reservoir of avian influenza viruses.

William Raab, science advisor to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, affirmed today that the Michigan finding "poses no threat to human health" and requires no special precautions by consumers.

"It's good to be reminded that low-pathogenic subtypes of avian influenza circulate in wild birds," said Davison. "It's part of nature. The important thing is to make sure we keep avian influenza out of commercial poultry."

She added that the industry and government have active testing and surveillance programs to protect commercial flocks. Nearly all U.S. chicken producers test their flocks for avian influenza, with thousands of flocks being tested every month before going to slaughter. So far there have been no findings of the H5 or H7 types.

The finding of a low-pathogenic, North American subtype of avian influenza in wild birds in Michigan creates no problems for commercial poultry operations or consumers, according to the National Chicken Council.

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