INTERVIEW-U.S. bird flu virus seen under control within four months – OIE – RTRS 5/26/2015

INTERVIEW-U.S. bird flu virus seen under control within four months – OIE – RTRS

 

26-May-2015 07:25:07 AM

 

    * World Animal Health body OIE expects bird flu to wane

    * Drop linked to stricter control at farms, warm weather

    * OIE warns U.S. bird flu viruses could spread to Mexico

    * U.S. poultry toll seen rising to 50 million

 

    By Sybille de La Hamaide

    PARIS, May 26 (Reuters) – An epidemic of bird flu that has

devastated U.S. poultry flocks this year is likely to be under

control within four months as the United States steps up

measures to contain the virus, the head of the World

Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said.

    However, there is a high risk that strains of the virus will

continue to spread within the American continent, mainly Mexico,

which should prompt farmers and authorities to boost biosecurity

measures, OIE Director General Bernard Vallat told Reuters.

    The U.S. poultry industry is confronting its biggest

outbreak of bird flu on record, which has led to the death or

culling of 40 million birds after confirmation on commercial

farms and backyard flocks in 16 U.S. states and in Canada.

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    The disease, which manifests in several physical symptoms

and a sharp drop in egg production, has led to a sharp rise in

egg prices, forcing food producers to look for alternatives.

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    “I think it cannot worsen in the United States,” Vallat

said. “Given the scale of the damage and the pressure on farmers

I believe they will quickly protect themselves more efficiently.

There are huge economic stakes here.”

    Although the U.S. bird flu toll could reach 50 million, the

infection rate has reached a top, Vallat said, predicting the

end of the epidemic in September, with possible sporadic cases

every few weeks.

    That compared with 34 outbreaks of the highly infectious

H5N2 and H5N8 strains on farms or backyards between April 27 and

May 8, leading to the death or culling of 9.9 million birds,

U.S. government reports posted on the OIE website showed.

    Summer conditions should also help as the virus weakens in

warm weather, reducing transmission risks.

    The bird flu epidemic in the United States was particularly

severe because farmers were not prepared, and because of the

size of its farms, Vallat said.

    “U.S. farms are more concentrated than in other countries

such as in the European Union. Of course this has an impact on

the number of birds infected or killed,” he said. “When a virus

enters a farm like that, it’s a real disaster.”

    While the U.S. threat is seen fading, Vallat highlighted

risks to other countries in the region, particularly Mexico, and

urged a stronger approach to biosecurity measures.

    These include early detection and surveillance but also

simple steps such as protecting feed from wild birds, and

disinfecting everything entering farms including people, trucks

and veterinarians, he said.

    Outbreaks of a different strain of bird flu virus, H7N3, in

Mexico in 2012 and 2013 led to the death of nearly 20 million

birds over two years, data showed.

 

 

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