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By Dr. John Clifford, USDA Chief Veterinary Officer
On April 22, I had a press call with our USDA partner, Dr. Alicia Fry from CDC and Dr. David Swayne of USDA’s Southeast Poultry Research Lab to help get out some important information about the avian influenza event currently occurring in the United States.
Since December 2014, USDA has confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 in the Pacific, Central and Mississippi Flyways (migratory paths for birds). The disease has been found in wild birds, as well as in some backyard and commercial poultry flocks.
There are three important things that you need to know about this situation:
• Our food supply is safe. Food is safe because the United States has the strongest AI surveillance system in the world. We actively look for the disease, educate the public and producers on the most appropriate practices to ensure their health and safety, as well as provide compensation to affected producers to encourage disease reporting.
• The risk to humans is low. No human infections with these viruses have been detected, and the CDC considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections in wild birds, backyard flocks, and commercial poultry to be low.
• USDA will continue to do everything it can to support states and producers. We are coordinating closely with State officials and other Federal departments on rigorous surveillance, reporting, and control efforts. At the same time, USDA will continue to work with Congress to ensure that we are able to provide a much-needed safety net to the poultry producers who are experiencing economic hardships as a result of losses due to the disease.
Along with industry, USDA and its Federal and State partners are responding quickly and decisively to these outbreaks. You can learn more about the situation and USDA’s response by listening to a recording of the press conference: http://www.usda.gov/documents/usda-cdc-media-call.mp3.
You too can help by continuing to practice good biosecurity if you own birds. All birds owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts, should prevent contact between their birds and wild birds and report sick birds or unusual birds deaths to State/Federal officials, either through their state veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.