USDA funds avian influenza prevention program

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman has transferred $13.7 million from USDA’s Commodity Credit Corp. to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to address avian influenza.

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. 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.

Part of the funding, $10.8 million, will be used to develop a national low pathogenic avian influenza control and prevention program.

“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 program, officials with APHIS’ National Poultry Improvement Plan will develop and implement a monitoring system for the H5 and H7 strains of low pathogenic avian influenza in the broiler, turkey and egg layer industries. APHIS will also create a set of standards for states to use in insuring live bird markets are regulated in a uniform fashion.

In 2004, LPAI was identified in poultry flocks in Delaware and Maryland. Avian influenza 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. Avian influenza 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. Avian influenza 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 1 million birds.

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