Iowa Public Television


USDA Tries to Dispel Avian Flu Fears

posted on October 28, 2005

The Europeans did get off the dime Friday by offering to cut tariffs on some farm products by up to 60 percent. The French, not surprisingly, vowed to block the plan.

The trade talks are just one sign of increasing global interdependence. We live in a shrinking world. That's also becoming apparent through the spread of avian flu, which is moving rapidly from continent to continent.

The latest snapshot shows new cases being reported in Russia and Indonesia ... vaccines being developed in Hungary and France ... and new safeguards being adopted in the Philippines, Sweden, and Australia.

The United States also is taking steps to protect against the disease, even as the public sense of foreboding grows.


USDA Tries to Dispel Avian Flu Fears

USDA officials this week tried to dispel fears of an avian flu pandemic striking the United States. In a technical briefing for the media, officials from the Animal and Plant Heath Inspection Service outlined efforts to protect against the highly transmissible disease, which has swept across Asia and parts of Europe and Africa.

Dr. Ron DeHaven, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: "As a primary safeguard, APHIS maintains trade restrictions on the importation of poultry and poultry products from all affected countries. Additionally, USDA quarantines and tests live birds to make sure that pet birds and other fowl from countries not known to be infected don't inadvertently introduce the disease into the United States. We also have an ongoing surveillance program. Early detection and rapid response is the key to minimize the impact on our poultry production as well as minimize any impact with regard to trade restrictions."

Avian influenza commonly affects birds and has been transmitted to humans in Asia through a strain labeled H5N1. The H5N1 strain has killed more than 60 people and resulted in the destruction of millions of birds in Asia. Some scientists monitoring for avian flu say it's possible migrating birds will bring it to North America as soon as next year. The greatest concern for many medical officials is the possibility that the deadly form of the disease could mutate and develop the ability to spread from human to human. To this point, there only have been bird-to-human cases.

Dr. Ron DeHaven, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: "I think it's important to emphasize that there is no evidence at this time that the H5N1 virus that's currently circulating in Asia is in the U.S., either in birds or humans. Again, no evidence that it's in birds or humans in the United States at this time."

USDA officials say the department has spent more than two decades working to prepare for and prevent an outbreak of dangerous strains of avian influenza in the U.S. The focus has been on attacking the disease and its source overseas.

Dr. Ron DeHaven, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: "We have done some testing on the vaccine that we have in the bank, and we do indeed have a vaccine that is effective against the H5N1 virus that's currently circulating in parts of Asia."

Officials also hoped to minimize consumer concerns. They addressed threats from within the U.S. poultry industry.

Dr. Richard Raymond, Food Safety Inspection Service: "If high path avian influenza were to be detected in the United States, I want to assure the American public that the chance of that infected poultry ever entering the food chain would be extremely low."


Tags: agriculture animals birds diseases influenza news USDA