US 'preparing for Bird Flu outbreak'

The US government is getting ready for the possible arrival of bird flu, and has held “significant planning sessions” in case of an outbreak, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said yesterday in Berlin.

The US government is getting ready for the possible arrival of bird flu, and has held “significant planning sessions” in case of an outbreak, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said yesterday in Berlin.

“We are preparing in the US like it will happen, because that’s the best way to be prepared,” Johanns told reporters during a briefing in the German capital.

“Government-wide, we have held significant planning sessions, preparation sessions,” he said. At the US Department of Agriculture, “we know what our response is going to be. So we’ve invested a lot.”

Johanns said the US was confident it would be ready if bird flu was identified in the country. “We have a plan in place, we have resources available,” he said.

He said the EU also had improved preparedness for a possible pandemic, but lamented that “other parts of the world don’t have the resources or the infrastructure” and said the US was prepared to help those who asked.

Meanwhile, four chickens tested positive for the H5 bird flu virus in western India – the second outbreak there in a month – but further tests were being conducted to see if it was the deadly H5N1 strain, health officials said.

And war-torn Afghanistan pleaded yesterday for protective clothing for its staff after the first possible cases of bird flu were detected. Azerbaijan late Monday reported three people killed by the disease.

Indian officials were planning to slaughter 75,000 chickens in four villages in Maharashtra state where an outbreak was first reported in mid-February, said B. Bandopadhyay, the federal commissioner for animal husbandry.

Four birds came back positive for the H5 strain of 6,600 tested from the Jalgaon area. India reported its first bird flu outbreak involving H5N1 from Maharashtra state last month, but in a different area.

In Afghanistan, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said it hoped to know early today whether five swab samples from backyard poultry farms in the capital, Kabul, and the eastern city of Jalalabad, tested positive for the H5N1 strain of the disease.

The samples have already tested positive for H5, but the virus’ specific subtype was not known.

:: Trinidad has banned poultry imports from a region in south-eastern France that is struggling to contain a bird flu outbreak, officials said yesterday.

Trinidad has placed a temporary ban on the importation of live birds, hatching eggs and unprocessed poultry products from Ain in south-eastern France, where the deadly H5N1 strain of avian influenza was discovered.

“France does not provide a large amount of our poultry,” a Ministry of Agriculture spokesman Brent Bain said. “This is a precautionary measure. It will not affect the industry in a significant way.”

There have been no cases of bird flu reported in the Caribbean.

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