National Report - An avian influenza outbreak in Great Britain resulted in the deaths of more than 150,000 birds and prompted import restrictions in the United States, which continues to remain clear of the disease and focused on prevention.
NATIONAL REPORT — An avian influenza outbreak in Great Britain resulted in the deaths of more than 150,000 birds and prompted import restrictions in the United States, which continues to remain clear of the disease and focused on prevention.
A Suffolk, England poultry farm lost 159,000 turkeys last month that were infected with H5N1, a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) strain, according to a statement released by David Miliband, the United Kingdom's Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs secretary of state.
While the source of the outbreak remains under investigation, all gatherings involving birds — including fairs, markets, shows and races — have been banned across England, Scotland and Wales.
USDA implemented a ban on poultry imports from Suffolk and Norfolk counties in England. After a monitoring period to confirm the area is virus-free, the ban will be lifted, says Dr. John Clifford, USDA chief veterinarian for Animal Health.
USDA seeks to understand and monitor veterinary infrastructure and disease prevention and control methods in countries that are U.S. trade partners, helping the United States implement effective regulations and protocols when outbreaks occur. Potentially infected goods from entire countries can be banned during outbreaks if the USDA has no knowledge of eradication measures, Clifford says.
While almost 40 countries worldwide have reported cases of the HPAI H5N1 strain, only 11 have confirmed human cases since 2003, totaling 166 deaths, reports the World Health Organization. The United States remains free of the disease in humans and commercial poultry.
Safeguards in the U.S. include trade restrictions, wild-bird monitoring, federal and state poultry testing, federal inspection programs at slaughter and processing plants, and now a National Avian Influenza Response Plan implemented under President Bush's National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza, according to the USDA.
Certain types of AI surfaced three times in this country, most recently in 2004, but never an HPAI H5N1 strain or any resulting in human illness, USDA says. In the event of an outbreak, USDA is prepared with what Clifford calls the keys to success — surveillance, early detection and reporting.