Health officials around the world are keeping a close eye on an outbreak of avian flu in Asia…worrying it could turn into a human pandemic. At home, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is working to prevent the virus from entering the state.
There are different kinds of avian influenza. The most serious strains are a major concern for poultry producers in the state. Birds from countries with these strains aren’t allowed in Florida. All birds that do enter must have a permit—certifying they came from influenza-free stocks. The state’s Division of Animal Industry has 35 agents trained to test commercial flocks. State Veterinarian – Dr. Thomas Holt – says although there hasn’t been a reported case of bird flu in Florida since 2001…there are worries the virus could mutate.
“I think the biggest concern that all of us are worried about is that the poultry may directly infect people and that there may be a genetic shift that allows it to spread from people to people. That hasn’t really established itself, but any change in this virus could make it much more dangerous.”
So far in Asia, the disease has mostly affected chickens. But dozens of people have died from the virus. Veterinarians—and those working with birds in Florida—are required by law to report suspected cases of bird flu to the Department of Agriculture.
Tuesday, 08 March 2005 00:00