Sen. Carper on avian flu: “All of us need to remain on high alert”
A congressional hearing about avian was held on Capitol Hill Wednesday. While the most recent outbreak has flagged since June, officials say the threat is still alive.
“This is a serious issue.” Says Senator Ron Johnson. “We have a mission in this committee…to enhance the economic and national security of this country. This is an economic issue.”
Avian Flu, commonly known as A.I. or bird flu, is a highly contagious viral disease. So far this year, it’s reportedly killed eight million turkeys and 40 million chickens, primarily in the mid-west. Nationwide, it has spiked the price of eggs and products that contain eggs.
While the outbreak has slowed down, Senator Tom Carper says new outbreaks are a concern as we approach fall and winter when the migratory birds which carry bird flu start to relocate.
“The possibility of new outbreaks even on the East Coast is real and all of us need to remain on high alert.” Says Senator Carper.
Five witnesses, including Dr. Jack Gelb from the University of Delaware (“UD”), were invited to testify Wednesday and explain how bird flu affects their everyday lives and offer recommendations on how to stem an outbreak.
Dr. Gelb is the director Avian BioSciences at UD and noted the last outbreak in Delaware came over a decade ago. He says it was relatively minor, with only three farms testing positive, but it’s crucial that farmers have a bio-security plan in place to prevent disease.
“Part of the emergency plan is that infected flocks must be de-populated ideally within 24 hours at the earliest time following the identification of the virus on the farm.” Explains Dr. Gelb.
While some farmers have plans in place, Gelb says more need to have them and this year’s outbreak in the mid-west is evidence of that need.
“It is probably the single greatest avian influenza weapon but unfortunately, biosecurity is not consistently applied by all farmers or companies.” He says.
Another recommendation from Dr. Gelb was developing education outreach programs designed to help farmers respond to outbreaks.