Preparing Iowa for Avian Influenza Discussed at Iowa State

November 30th, 2005

Iowa, the largest egg-producing state in the nation, is well prepared for an avian influenza outbreak, if one should occur. Thirty-five scientists, producers and government and industry leaders met at Iowa State University Nov. 17 to discuss the impacts, risks and control of avian influenza. Additional participants dialed in via teleconference to the "Avian Influenza: Animal and Agricultural Impact" forum.

"We have two goals in regards to avian influenza. We must protect public health and help the public understand the risk, and we must protect the poultry industry," said John Lawrence, Iowa State extension livestock economist.

Avian influenza was first identified more than 100 years ago during an outbreak in Italy. Since then, the disease has cropped up at irregular intervals around the world. A current outbreak in Asia has raised concerns and led to the meeting at Iowa State.

Darrell Trampel, extension poultry specialist and professor in the Department of Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine, outlined the various strains of the virus that causes avian influenza and described the transfer of the virus among birds and potentially to humans.

Trampel emphasized Iowa is prepared for an outbreak because a statewide plan has been developed in an effort led by state veterinarian John Schiltz. "Through his leadership, we have a 16-page plan for an outbreak of poultry disease," Trampel said. The plan was developed with close cooperation from the poultry industry, according to Kevin Vinchattle, executive director of the Iowa Poultry Association and Iowa Egg Council.

The plan involves the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the state veterinarian's office, the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HLSEM), as well as local officials. "We have been learning what each organization is going to do relative to a disaster, and working to determine the roles and authorities of each agency," said David Miller, HLSEM administrator.

Forum participants also discussed the need to communicate with the public. "People are concerned," said Sam Beattie, extension food safety specialist and assistant professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. "Through communication, we are trying to help the public overcome the fear of the unknown by educating them about the disease."

"This gathering of key stakeholders was the right thing to do to discuss and come to an understanding about avian influenza," said Manjit Misra, director of the Institute for Food Safety and Security at Iowa State. "The speakers helped us understand what various organizations are doing in preparation for a possible outbreak."

The forum was co-sponsored by the Institute for Food Safety and Security, the College of Agriculture, the College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Human Sciences at Iowa State University. Additional sponsors were the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Iowa Poultry Association.

Contacts: 

Ted MacDonald, Institute for Food Safety and Security, (515) 294-5681, jtmacd@iastate.edu
Susan Thompson, Communications Service, (515) 294-0705, sander@iastate.edu

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