Ag Secretary Funds Bird Flu Control and Prevention

WASHINGTON, DC, May 14, 2004 (ENS) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture is spending $13.7 million to address avian influenza. Part of the funding, $10.8 million, will be used to develop a national low pathogenic avian influenza control and prevention program, said Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman as she transferred the funds to implement the program out of the Commodity Credit Corporation on Wednesday. Low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) was identified this year in poultry flocks in Delaware and Maryland. It is a different strain from the virulent bird flu that swept across Asia earlier this year, killing at least 20 people and resulting in the loss of more than 100 million poultry, but still Veneman says poultry in the United States will be safer with this program in place. “This program will address biosecurity and monitoring issues within the commercial poultry industry and the live bird market system to safeguard poultry in the United States from the effects of avian influenza,” said Veneman. As part of this national LPAI program, officials with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) will develop and implement a monitoring system for the H5 and H7 strains of LPAI in the broiler, turkey and egg layer industries. APHIS will also create a set of standards for states to use in ensuring live bird markets are regulated in a uniform fashion. APHIS will utilize $2.9 million to assist Texas with the disposal, surveillance and indemnification costs associated with the February outbreak of high pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). This outbreak led to the destruction of more than 9,000 chickens and more than 30 countries suspending poultry trade with all or part of the United States. This was the first outbreak of the disease in this country in 20 years. Avian influenza (AI) viruses are classified into 15 subtypes. LPAI viruses cause few clinical signs in infected birds, constitute the vast majority of AI viruses and are endemic to the United States. However, low pathogenic H5 and H7 viruses can mutate into a highly pathogenic form under field conditions and can strike without warning. Once introduced, the disease can spread from bird to bird by direct contact. Bird flu viruses also can be spread by manure, equipment, vehicles, egg flats, crates and people whose clothing or shoes have come in contact with the virus. AI viruses can remain viable at moderate temperatures for long periods in the environment and can survive indefinitely in frozen material. One gram of contaminated manure can potentially infect one million birds, the USDA says.