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Homeland Security

10 January 2006

Bush Approves Funding Boost for Bird Flu Prevention

Surveillance, preparedness efforts to benefit, USDA says

By Kathryn McConnell
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The Bush administration has approved supplemental spending of $91.4 million to enhance the Agriculture Department’s efforts to prevent and prepare for any potential cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), part of $3.8 billion for pandemic flu preparedness, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The supplemental funds will allow USDA to increase surveillance in the United States and boost assistance to countries affected by the virus in hopes of preventing the spread of the disease and to protect human and animal health, said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns in a December 30, 2005, press release.

"These funds will enable us to intensify our surveillance in the United States and deliver increased assistance to countries impacted by the virus, in hopes of preventing further spread and protecting both human and animal health," Johanns said in the release.

President Bush approved the funding, part of the Defense Department spending bill for the fiscal year ending September 30, on December 30, 2005.  (See related article.)

Portions of the funds also would be devoted to trade compliance, research and development of new vaccines and preparedness training, according to USDA.

The poultry industry in the United States is applying biosecurity measures to minimize a potential spread of avian influenza, or bird flu, a State Department official said.

The measures include ensuring that commercial flocks are prevented from coming into contact with wild or migratory birds, controlling vehicles from entering a poultry farm, disinfecting vehicles leaving a farm, routinely cleaning poultry cages and daily changing feed and water, the official said in an interview with the Washington File January 9.

USDA is already collaborating with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Program, the World Health Organization and other international partners to control the influenza virus in countries where it is already endemic, the USDA release said.

USDA also is working closely with the U.S. departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Interior, and Homeland Security, and with state governments, Native American tribal leaders and industry sectors to prepare an emergency response if HPAI is detected in the United States.

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) restricts the import into the United States of live birds and poultry products from countries where HPAI is known to exist.  The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) requires member countries to report any cases of HPAI.

Some U.S. trade partners have overreacted to reports of HPAI in Asia and parts of Europe and have enacted trade restrictions on poultry products from such countries as the United States that are free of the disease, according to the State Department official.

Yet countries that are members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are obligated to keep import restrictions within OIE safety guidelines, said the official with State's Bureau of Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs.

Those guidelines say that a country wanting to restrict trade of poultry and poultry products must provide scientific justification for exceeding the OIE's international guidelines.

OIE has reported HPAI in Cambodia, China, Croatia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Taipei China, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine and Vietnam.  (See update of avian influenza in animals on OIE Web site.)

In 2005 the United States exported nearly 2.7 billion kilograms of poultry.

For more information, see Bird Flu (Avian Influenza).

The USDA press release on U.S. funding for avian influenza prevention and preparedness is available on the USDA Web site.

(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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