May 2015 – HEALTH – Governor Terry Branstad declared a state of emergency for Iowa on Friday, citing risks from the rapidly spreading bird flu outbreak, Reuters reports. The announcement was made after officials identified the virus’ presence at four new poultry farms. Iowa is the third state to declare a state of emergency, after Minnesota and Wisconsin did so in April. According to Reuters, Iowa is the United States’ top egg producer. Nationally, the outbreak “either has led or will lead” to the extermination of as many as 21 million chickens and turkeys. More than 16 million birds have been infected in Iowa alone, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The measure expands the efforts of the state’s emergency response plan, and authorizes various state entities access to additional resources, supplies and equipment to track and contain the influenza outbreak. It also allows for the removal and disposal of infected animals on either public or private lands and lifts weight restrictions on trucks hauling culled flocks, among other things. In addition, the action allows the state and local law enforcement to set up checkpoints and road blocks anywhere in the state, including areas outside of quarantined farms. The declaration is effective immediately and will remain in effect at least through the end of May. The Journal reports that, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no human infections have thus far been identified, and that this strain poses a very low risk to humans. –Gawker
A mystery where the virus came from or how its spreading
DES MOINES — It’s been five months since the H5N2 bird flu virus was discovered in the United States, and producers have lost 21 million birds in the Midwest alone. Yet, researchers acknowledge they know little about a bird flu virus that’s endangered turkey and egg-laying chicken populations that supply much of the nation. Scientists at the Department of Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies are puzzled by the H5N2 virus’ spread — even amid heightened bio-security measures — and apparent lack of widespread deaths in largely unprotected backyard flocks. “At this point, we don’t know very much about these viruses because they’ve only recently been identified,” Dr. Alicia Fry, the CDC’s leader of the influenza prevention and control team, said. “We’re following the situation very closely because this is something we’re continuing to understand.”
The H5N2 virus surfaced last winter in Canada and was first identified in the United States in early December, when it was found in a wild bird on the West Coast. This spring, the virus was found in poultry operations in eight Midwest states, forcing commercial producers to kill and compost millions of turkeys and chickens in Iowa, Minnesota and elsewhere. Scientists speculate that perhaps rodents or small birds, seeking food, tracked the virus into barns. Maybe it’s the work of flies, as the bird flu virus has been found on the insects in a Pennsylvania outbreak in 1983 and in Japan in 2004. The USDA’s chief veterinarian even floated the idea wind may be blowing dust and feathers carrying the virus from the barnyard into buildings through air vents. “To me, the main concern is the disease is moving even with heightened biosecurity,” said Richard French, a professor of animal health at Becker College in Worcester, Mass. “Ideally we’ve got to try and figure out the way it’s most likely moving and try to put controls in place to stop that.”
Poultry farms’ biosecurity measures include changing clothes and boots before entering barns, disinfecting equipment and vehicles before they approach barns and assigning workers to specific barns. As new operations are infected almost daily, USDA epidemiologists are trying to determine whether the virus came from a wild bird or whether it could have spread from poultry in another barn or a nearby farm. “We are continuing to evaluate how facilities become positive because we also want to be cognizant of any potential risk of lateral spread from farm to farm,” said Dr. T.J. Myers, the USDA associate deputy administrator of veterinary services. “We are doing those evaluations as we speak, and we really don’t have enough data to report on that yet.” –Triblive
contribution by Niebo