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Homeland Security

16 November 2005

U.S. Increases International Bird Flu Eradication Efforts

Supports standard for countries to report known cases, official says

By Kathryn McConnell
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The United States has increased efforts to help countries affected by a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza, or bird flu, to contain and eradicate the virus, according to the head of the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

The United States also is supporting an international standard that requires members of the World Organization for Animal Health to report all highly pathogenic strains and subtypes of low pathogenic strains of bird flu detected in their poultry stocks, Ron DeHaven said.

The APHIS administrator testified November 16 before the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee.

Of immediate worldwide concern is H5N1, a highly pathogenic form of avian influenza, which has been spreading across countries in Southeast Asia, Russia and parts of Eastern Europe.

In response to this threat, APHIS and other U.S. agencies have "bolstered efforts" to safeguard the U.S. poultry population from becoming infected and to work with other countries to improve their animal health infrastructures, DeHaven said. APHIS is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

He said the United States has been providing to foreign governments animal health experts to conduct training and has been conducting international surveillance.

President Bush has requested more than $91 million in emergency funding to intensify U.S. efforts to help countries affected by the disease, as well as to strengthen domestic bird flu surveillance efforts, DeHaven said. (See related article.)

The funding would build on the work of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization to prevent, control and eradicate bird flu, DeHaven said in his written testimony.

It also would be used to help USDA stockpile animal vaccine, perform diagnostics, work on anti-smuggling and investigative efforts and research the disease, DeHaven said.

APHIS is working with the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection agency, which is "vigilantly on the lookout" for any poultry or poultry products that might be smuggled into the United States from infected countries, he testified.

"Effective biosecurity measures and control and eradication programs will go a long way toward reducing the amount of virus in these H5N1-affected countries and minimize the potential for the virus to spread to other areas of the world," DeHaven said.

Pathogenesis refers to the ability of a virus to produce a disease, with highly pathogenic viruses producing the most severe clinical signs and death rates.

Addressing recent health concerns expressed by some consumers, DeHaven said no human cases of avian influenza have been confirmed from eating properly prepared poultry. (See related article.)

Proper procedures include washing hands and counter-tops after preparing raw meat, cooking poultry and all meats thoroughly and properly cooling cooked meat saved for next day's consumption, DeHaven said.

APHIS protects and promotes agricultural health in the United States, responds to other countries' animal and plant health import requirements and negotiates science-based standards.

DeHaven's testimony (PDF, 9 pages) is available on the House Agriculture Committee Web site.

For more information on U.S. and international efforts to combat avian influenza, see Bird Flu (Avian Influenza).

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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