Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Flu Flight Path: New Avian Influenza Strain Threatens $130M in Exports

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Flu Flight Path: New Avian Influenza Strain Threatens $130M in Exports

Article excerpt

OKLAHOMA CITY - A new strain of bird flu is sweeping the country, putting Oklahoma poultry producers at risk and raising questions about biosecurity measures between large commercial operations and backyard producers.

"No matter how hard you try, there's always a little bit of chance that somebody hasn't cleaned off their shoes or put their protective booties on," State Veterinarian Rod Hall said. "We think that's how some of the commercial producers have become infected."

Wilbert Hundl Jr., director of the Oklahoma field office of the USDA's Oklahoma statistics agency, said that between 2011 and 2013, the Oklahoma poultry and eggs industry had an average value of production of $812 million, with broilers contributing about 88 percent of that total. The poultry and eggs industry accounted for about 13 percent of the state's total commodities production.

Oklahoma is typically 10th in the country for broiler production and exports about $130 million in poultry products annually.

If the new bird flu hits Oklahoma, Hall said, "it would virtually eliminate those exports."

The new flu is referred to as HPAI, or highly pathogenic avian influenza, and H5N2, the scientific nomenclature for the type-A subvirus strain. It seems to be a combination of the more deadly Asian strain and weaker North American strains, Hundl said, and it has been moving through the world for a few years. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the risk to people is low, but H5N2 can wipe out a poultry flock within 48 hours. It can spread from wild birds to backyard and commercial flocks by direct contact and by contaminated matter such as feces tracked on shoes.

Even though big commercial producers' fowl rarely bump into their cousins from small farms, Hall said, other vectors are just as problematic - one of his family members, for example, has a small flock of chickens in her yard, but she's trying to keep them inside more now to reduce their exposure to fly-by visitors and other bird droppings. …

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