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PostPosted: Sun May 24, 2015 2:25 pm 
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Bird Flu Spreading as Scientists Look Everywhere for Clues
BY MAGGIE FOX

Could it be blowing from farm to farm in the dirt? Could determined starlings and pigeons be carrying it into poultry houses on their feet? Is it spreading in feed, or being carried on truck tires?

Federal agriculture officials are looking everywhere they can think of for H5N2 bird flu, which has spread to poultry flocks in 14 states and killed or forced the slaughter of more than 39 million birds.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza has never spread like this before in the United States, and it's flummoxed the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farmers and scientists alike.

"The one question that we cannot answer is how is it getting from the migratory birds into these flocks," said Dr. Jarra Jagne of Cornell University, who's studied avian influenza outbreaks around the world.

"We are waiting for a good, warm summer day."

Despite intense efforts to control it, it's continued to spread and the best hope now is for some hot weather to give everyone a break, says Dr. Jack Shere, associate deputy administrator at USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

"We are waiting for a good, warm summer day. That's going to help us," Shere told NBC News.

"When we get above 65 it starts to dry the virus out. (At) 85 the virus is practically dead."

Dr. Carol Cardona of the University of Minnesota isn't counting on that help just yet. "Heating up will definitely kill the virus in the environment but in Minnesota that type of weather won't typically happen until mid-July," she said. "The weather is going to help but it's not a silver bullet."

APHIS has counted 177 different outbreaks since H5N2 first showed up late last year. It's affected turkey farms, chicken farms, backyard flocks and has killed broilers and laying hens. In Iowa, the state that produces the most eggs, more than 25 million birds have died or been slaughtered in more than 60 separate outbreaks. Some states have declared emergencies.

"Our usual control mechanisms for dealing with its spread among commercial poultry — they don't work as well," says Shere.


Bird flu sends egg prices soaringCNBC



The U.S. has been on the lookout for avian influenza for years, and especially since H5N1 hopped from poultry to people in 2003 and spread to 16 countries.

"We have watched it spread over in Asia. It was only a matter of time before it came to us on the flyways," Shere said. It showed up last fall, first in the form of H5N8, and a few cases of H5N1 - a different strain from the virus affecting people in Asia and the Middle East.

Shere says officials warned farmers and large producers then to double down on biosecurity.

"We saw it coming," Shere said. "We saw it in Washington, we saw it in Oregon. We said you better up your biosecurity; this thing is coming. And it came."

"We saw it in Washington, we saw it in Oregon. We said you better up your biosecurity; this thing is coming. And it came."

The migrating wild birds that spread the virus are the dabbling ducks, which get infected as they float on water and nibble on food just under the surface. They don't necessarily get sick but can spread the virus in their droppings — which are dispersed even further in water.

That made for a bad combination in Minnesota, which has nearly 12,000 large lakes and countless smaller lakes and ponds.

"If you have got migratory birds and they stop at different locations on open water, it is pretty easy to understand," Shere said. "This virus can live in the water for up to 130 days."

And once one farm was infected, lateral spread took over. That's when the virus gets spread by other means - perhaps other wild birds carrying it on their feet, rodents carrying it on their feet, trucks carrying it on their tires, farm workers or contractors carrying it on their boots.

"So you have a double whammy," Shere said.

H5N2's affected commercial or backyard flocks in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin, Kansas, Arkansas, Oregon, California, Washington and Idaho.

"Sniffer" tests have found the virus in the soil just yards from uninfected farms, Shere says, so everyone must take care. Tests in Europe have suggested the virus can survive being blown short distances in dust.

"We are just guessing that it's moving that way," Shere said "There are some high winds in Minnesota, especially. It moves on a wet, cold wind."

But people may be the most dangerous and persistent carriers, Jagne said. "People coming in have to be closely scrutinized," she said.

Shere agreed. "Let's be honest. The biosecurity is good, but it may not be complete," he said.

"The biosecurity is good, but it may not be complete."

"Perhaps workers aren't completely educated about how important it is to wash your hands and disinfect your boots," he added. "If you don't know where that feed truck has been before it comes to your farm, you should, because it may just have left an infected premise."

It's expensive to do what it really takes to keep a virus out of poultry production facilities, Shere says.

"I heard of a farm today where they don't even allow folks to drive onto the farm," he said. Workers must park, shower in a facility provided for them, change their clothes and get on a bus. Once on the farm, they shower and change again before entering their assigned buildings.

"That is pretty good biosecurity," Shere said. "We have to pull out all the stops. Even with the best biosecurity, we have to do better."

And while right now the biggest threat is to agriculture and to experts of chickens, the biggest fear is that the virus will change just enough to make it infectious to people. No people have been reported infected by this strain yet, but H5N1 and H7N9 have infected hundreds of people and any new avian influenza has the potential to mutate into a form that could become a pandemic.

First published May 24th 2015, 12:49 pm

http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-ne ... lu-n363441

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PostPosted: Sun May 31, 2015 1:40 pm 
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Bird flu exposes U.S. weaknesses to next big outbreak
Donnelle Eller, deller@dmreg.com 3:44 p.m. CDT May 30, 2015

The fight to contain avian influenza, which has forced the destruction of nearly 45 million birds in 15 states, is raising red flags about America's biosecurity and its ability to fight even more virulent diseases in the future.

"In the Midwest, we've always said our biosecurity efforts were sufficient to deal with this … but we've never really been challenged," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

"Obviously, the biosecurity systems we have are not adequate."

Getting answers is important, not only to protect animals, but potentially humans as well.

Although there is evidence that the bird flu's rampage may be winding down, experts still aren't certain how the disease is being spread. And if fall waterfowl migrations and cooler temperatures usher the virus' return, Iowa, Minnesota and other states could be vulnerable again — with potentially more states stricken as well.

FULL COVERAGE: Bird Flu in Iowa

"There is that possibility it could mutate and be a somewhat different virus when it comes back," said Jim Roth, director of the Center for Food Security and Public Health at Iowa State University. "Those things are unknown."

Avian flu already ranks as the worst outbreak in the nation's history, based on the number of birds infected. It's pummeling Iowa, the nation's leading egg producer, and Minnesota, its top turkey producer.

Iowa's losses have pushed close to 29 million chickens, turkeys and ducks destroyed by the virus, with nearly 70 outbreaks. And Minnesota has seen an estimated 8.3 million birds destroyed, mostly turkeys, at more than 100 farms.

In all, nearly 45 million birds at about 200 operations in 15 states have been killed or destroyed.

The economic impact on Iowa and Minnesota alone is an estimated $1 billion, The Associated Press has reported.

Experts worry this virus — or an even more virulent one — could hit the East Coast, which has billions of chicken broilers in states such as Georgia and Arkansas and millions of turkeys in North Carolina.

LATEST CASE: Probable bird flu at Wright, Sac county farms

John Glisson, who oversees research for the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, said avian flu's return might not be as bad as feared.

The migratory waterfowl that introduced the virus in the Pacific Northwest last fall didn't bring the disease back again this spring. He's hoping the birds carrying the virus will develop an immunity.

"We thought for sure we'd have cases in California, Oregon and Washington and British Colombia, but we didn't," he said, noting that it moved instead to the Mississippi flyway, which includes Iowa. Experts believe one way avian influenza spreads is when migrating birds such as ducks and geese leave their droppings on farms.

Its unpredictability means the U.S. must be ready for anything.

"We know all these potential scenarios exist," he said. "But not knowing which one will happen, we try to prepare for them all."

The big unknowns

The nation faces "two zillion-dollar questions," said Osterholm, also a University of Minnesota environmental health professor.

"How and why is this happening, for which we don't have answers yet. ... and what do we do about it to prevent it from happening in the future?"

Without answers to the first question, "how and why," it's difficult to address the second one.

"We have to answer the first one. Failure is not an option here," Osterholm said. "That's what we're working on."

Glisson said a team of epidemiologists is analyzing dozens of infected farms — from massive egg-laying and turkey operations to backyard flocks — like crime scene investigators to determine how the birds were infected.

It's a massive undertaking that requires talking with hundreds of people.

Glisson, Osterholm and others anticipate the answers will show the virus was transmitted several ways — droppings from infected ducks and geese, transported on people's shoes and clothing, as well as on equipment and vehicles.

The virus also could have come in on feed or water. Even flies and rodents could be carrying the disease.

Scientists also suspect the disease is traveling through the air, attached to dust or feathers. It also could be "aerosolized," being carried on the wind.


DES MOINES REGISTER
Poultry producers frustrated with bird flu response

'A big mystery'

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is getting a partial idea of how the virus is spreading — or not, said T.J. Myers, the USDA's associate deputy administrator of veterinary services. It has found, for example, workers at different facilities — one infected, another not — living in the same home.

It has found that facilities closer to water are infected. And it has found that wind sometimes plays a role, with facilities "downwind getting infected."

But Iowa data are still being analyzed, he said. "We haven't cracked the mystery by any means," he said, adding that data so far is preliminary.

If the virus is carried on the wind, it could dramatically change the way officials respond, Osterholm said.

"Biosecurity was always set up in a concentric circles, like an explosive device — you go out 1 mile, 4 miles or 5 miles — quarantining farms in that area," he said.

"But if it's moving with the air, such as wind, it's going to be a plume phenomenon. It's like smoke. If you're in that plume, you might be miles downstream and be impacted. But if you're 500 yards off the plume, even if you're adjacent to that farm, you may not be at risk."

Glisson said one Minnesota outbreak — occurring on a hot, dry, windy day — made him consider wind transmission.

"I suspect that this might have happened, but I'll be surprised if that's a major part of the spread," he said.

Osterholm also suggests that destroying birds in an infected facility could itself create "a virus cloud, because of the increased activity and movement."

"We know the virus is getting into the barns somehow, so there's some kind of breach in biosecurity," said Tim Boyer, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Food Protection and Defense at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

"In the end, it's a big mystery to everybody involved," Boyer said. "There will be a lot of work over the coming months to pinpoint how it's getting into these barns."


DES MOINES REGISTER
Bird flu could cost nearly $1 billion in Iowa, Minnesota

Human migration?

The Iowa Department of Health has been closely watching about 200 workers to determine if any becomes ill by the virus, said Patricia Quinlisk, the agency's medical director.

Some workers, early in the outbreak, chose to take an anti-viral as a precaution because they worked for a while without masks.

No one has become ill, and Quinlisk doesn't expect anyone will.

No human cases have been found of avian influenza, and health officials have said the strain poses a low risk to the public.

There also is no food safety risk for consumers.

But Osterholm worries a new avian influenza strain could emerge in the years ahead that could make humans sick.

It's a concern that gripped millions in 2004, when the H5N1 virus in Asia that killed tens of millions of poultry also sickened several hundred people — about half of whom died.

The feared pandemic never materialized, though.

Concerns emerged again in 2013, when the H7N9 low pathogen strain infected primarily China, killing about 200 people.

Pathogen mixing bowl

Osterholm said Iowa and other states have "created these mixing bowls in our communities" for a more aggressive virus to develop.

"Today, pigs basically are the ideal mixing vessels for bird influenza viruses and human influenza viruses," Osterholm said. "Their lung cells actually have receptors for both types of viruses, so when bird viruses are floating around and human viruses are floating around, they can co-infect a pig's lungs at the same time."

"What we don't know is if we keep passing these viruses through potential reservoirs of, say pigs, will we suddenly see a human virus spin out. I worry about that a lot."

Quinlisk doubts it would happen.

"We do know that in rare circumstances an avian virus can get in the same animal as a human virus," she said. "And if those two viruses are replicating in the exact same cell, they can share some DNA.

"Most of the time when they do that, you end up with a virus that's not viable. It dies. Every once in a while, that recombination can produce a virus that could cause human illness. But it basically causes human flu."

It won't suddenly morph into some deadly virus, like turning into Ebola, Quinlisk said. "Most humans have been exposed to flus and have immunity to them."

And vaccines are effective against influenza, she said.

Glisson said the current virus would have to "really change" to make people sick. "We'd have to see a dramatic recombination event in order for it to become infectious for humans.

"All of these things are possible, but they're possible all the time," he said.

Preparing for worse

But Osterholm believes that U.S. officials need to imagine a pandemic outbreak to be able to respond to the possibility — no matter how remote.

"We've never seen anything like this," he said. "We'll continue to see this evolution of high-pathogen avian influenza viruses circulate around the world.

"This kind of discussion is absolutely critical. We'll only get out of the situation by solving it; the only way we're going to solve it is to be intellectually and scientifically honest about what we're doing, what the challenges are.

"My goal isn't to scare people out of their wits, but to scare them into their wits."


Animals, food, national security

Jim Roth, director of the Center for Food Security and Public Health at Iowa State University, is concerned that the U.S. Department of Agriculture lacks enough staff to respond to large outbreaks such as this spring's avian influenza.

The USDA has tapped retired workers and a corps of veterinarians, he said, to help respond to the outbreak. It also contracts with companies to help with euthanizing birds and cleaning and disinfecting facilities.

The federal agency has earmarked $413 million to help pay producers for their losses and cover cleanup costs.

T.J. Myers, the USDA's associate deputy administrator of veterinary services, said the agency — and states — have planned and prepared for an avian influenza outbreak. But the magnitude of this outbreak was difficult to anticipate. "We're now up to about 200 cases, and all that's been compressed into about a six-week period," he said.

Getting the "sheer number of people required ... has been a bit of a scramble," he said. "It's required a huge amount of human capital, and that surprised everybody."

The next couple of months will be critical to learning more about the virus and how to adjust biosecurity measures to prevent it from entering facilities. The USDA also plans to hold conferences in June and July on the outbreak to determine how it can better respond.

Another key discussion will be around bird flu vaccines, which could carry significant trade consequences. If using a vaccine destroys access to export markets, though, "the response could be more costly than the disease itself," Myers said.

Roth said the nation also needs to worry about other animal diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease and classical swine fever, called hog cholera. And the nation needs larger stockpiles of vaccines to respond to those diseases.

"We've been fortunate to keep out some very important diseases, but when a new disease comes in, our livestock has no immunity to it," he said. "It can spread very rapidly."

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/ ... /28217131/

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2015 9:06 am 
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Will bird flu be back? If so, don’t be so quick to blame migratory birds, says DNR
September 10, 2015
By Anna Haecherl-Smith , Marshall Independent

Tests on waterfowl have offered no proof they're to blame for outbreak

MARSHALL?- It's still not known what caused the rapid spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) last spring that killed 9 million turkeys in Minnesota.

More than 100 sites across 23 counties tested positive for the H5N2 strain of avian influenza. The University of Minnesota Extension estimated in July that the outbreak cost the state $650 million, including farm revenue and processing plant losses, as well as hundreds of processing plant jobs.

The H5N2 strain was found only in two wild birds, a Cooper's hawk in Yellow Medicine County and a chickadee in the metro area, but it hasn't been found any of the more than 4,000 ducks and geese tested by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Many pointed fingers at migratory waterfowl that are known carriers of the virus, but Minnesota DNR Waterfowl Specialist Steve Cordts doesn't believe they are the culprit.

"(In) virtually every media story since it broke, there's been someone that blames migratory waterfowl," Cordts said. "HPAI hasn't been present in any waterfowl in Minnesota that has been sampled. We sampled 4,000 immediately after the first turkey barn showed up positive... we're sampling birds now and haven't found it."

Fall migration has been on the minds of many poultry farmers, as well as cooler temperatures that allow the virus to spread more easily. There is not specific timeframe for when migration will start and end, but Cordts said millions of birds will travel through Minnesota on their way south for the winter.

"It varies a lot depending on the species," Cordts said. "Many birds that were here this summer have already left the state, Teal from Canada are moving through daily and there are other species that won't start arriving until October."

"I've heard turkey folks ask me to give them a date to step up their biosecurity, but migration is already going on," Cordts said. "There are ducks and geese in Minnesota nearly every day of the year. If I were a poultry producer I would have year-round stepped-up biosecurity efforts."

But if HPAI hasn't been found in the thousands of ducks and geese tested by the DNR, where is it coming from?

"To show up as fast as it did and in as many barns as it did is still a mystery," Cordts said. "Waterfowl could play some limited role in it as they can be carriers, but there are also potentially a whole lot of other birds that no one has mentioned... there's a whole pile of possibilities."

Testing will ramp up again when duck season begins, Cordts said. Sample stations will be set up at wildlife areas and boat ramps where hunters can volunteer to have their ducks swabbed and tested. Cordts said he wouldn't be surprised if HPAI showed up in a few birds this fall, but he doubts that it will be a common or widespread occurrence.

"But after this fall, then what? If we find it in a couple of birds will we keep sampling next year?" Cordts said. "It's in North America and probably won't go away; it evolves and essentially mutates over time."

Cordts doesn't know what the future will hold, but he is bracing for another reoccurrence of the virus this fall.

"I do think the common wisdom is that it's probably going to show up again when the temperatures cool, so it's likely to show up somewhere again this fall," Cordts said. "But hopefully it's a minor occurrence and not what it was this spring."

http://marshallindependent.com/page/con ... l?nav=5015

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2015 9:16 am 
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DNR announces fall duck and goose seasons
(Released August 10, 2015)
Minnesota’s regular waterfowl season will open a half-hour before sunrise on Saturday, Sept. 26, with similar bag limits and season dates that were in place last year, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
“While the season structure is similar to recent years, we adjusted the duck season dates in the south duck zone based on hunter preferences,” said Steve Cordts, DNR waterfowl specialist.
The waterfowl seasons are based on a federal framework that applies to all states in the Mississippi Flyway.
More information on duck, goose, sandhill crane and other migratory bird hunting seasons will be available in the 2015 Minnesota Waterfowl Hunting Regulations, available in mid-August in booklet form and online.
Duck seasons and limits Duck season will be open for 60 days in each of the three waterfowl zones.
In the north zone, duck season is Saturday, Sept. 26, through Tuesday, Nov. 24.
In the central zone, duck season is Saturday, Sept. 26, through Sunday, Oct. 4, closes for five days, then reopens Saturday, Oct. 10, and runs through Sunday, Nov. 29.
In the south zone, duck season is Saturday, Sept. 26, through Sunday, Oct. 4, closes for 10 days, then reopens Thursday, Oct. 15, and runs through Friday, Dec. 4. The re-opening coincides with the annual statewide teachers’ conference on Oct. 15-16 when many schools do not schedule classes.
The only bag limit change from the 2015 season is for canvasback, which increases from one to two per day. The daily duck bag limit remains six ducks per day. The mallard bag limit remains four per day, including two hen mallards. The daily bag limits remain at three for wood duck and three for scaup.
All states in the Mississippi Flyway were offered the option for a September teal season or two bonus blue-winged teal during the regular season. Minnesota did not participate in either teal option last year and again made the choice not to take a teal season or bonus blue-winged teal option this year.
“We’ve had nearly two decades of liberal duck seasons with 60 days of hunting and six-duck daily bag limits,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “In recent years, the duck season has opened one week earlier than in the past, which has afforded Minnesota hunters more opportunity to take teal and wood ducks.”
In addition, waterfowl hunting in open water on five large water bodies in Minnesota has also been allowed.
“For these reasons, we don’t believe that an early teal season or further liberalization by adding two bonus blue-winged teal to the daily bag for the first part of the season is needed,” Landwehr said.
Mallard abundance from a continental spring survey that includes Minnesota is used to determine overall duck season length. This year’s estimate was 11.8 million mallards, which was well above the long-term average. Since 1997, duck season length has been 60 days each year and the mallard population has ranged from 6.8 million to 11.8 million mallards.
“The status of mallards, and most other species of ducks important to Minnesota hunters, is very good this year based on spring populations surveys,” Cordts said.
Youth waterfowl day Youth Waterfowl Day will be Saturday, Sept. 12. During Youth Waterfowl Day, hunters ages 15 and under may take regular season bag limits when accompanied by a non-hunting adult age 18 or older. The accompanying adult can’t hunt and does not need a license. Ducks, Canada geese, mergansers, coots and moorhens may be taken from a half-hour before sunrise to 4 p.m. Motorized decoy restrictions are in effect. Five geese may be taken statewide.
Canada goose seasons and limits Canada goose hunting is open in the three duck zones, and also in an intensive harvest zone. For a map of the intensive zone and other information, go online to the waterfowl hunting page.
The August Canada goose management harvest is Saturday, Aug. 8, through Sunday, Aug. 23, in the intensive harvest zone only. The bag limit is 10 per day. A $4 permit is required. This is the third year Canada goose harvest has been allowed during August due to high populations of Canada geese and the damage they cause to agricultural crops.
The early September Canada goose season will open statewide on Saturday, Sept. 5, and run through Tuesday, Sept. 22. Bag limits for Canada geese are 10 per day in the intensive harvest zone and five per day in the rest of the state. A $4 permit is required to hunt Canada geese during the September season. The restriction prohibiting hunting within 100 yards of surface water remains in effect in the northwest goose zone, Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area, Ocheda Lake Game Refuge and an area surrounding Swan Lake in Nicollet County. Early season goose hunters should consult the 2015 Waterfowl Supplement for zone maps and additional details.
Minnesota’s regular goose season will open in conjunction with the duck season statewide on Sept. 26, with a bag limit of three dark geese per day the entire season. “Dark” geese include Canada geese, white-fronted geese, and brant. Goose season will be closed in the central and south duck zones when duck season is closed.
Sandhill crane season The season for sandhill cranes is Saturday, Sept. 12, to Sunday, Oct. 18, in the northwest goose and sandhill crane zone only. The daily bag limit will be one sandhill crane per day. A $3 sandhill crane permit is required in addition to a small game hunting license.

http://news.dnr.state.mn.us/2015/08/10/ ... seasons-2/

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