Bird Flu Alarm

2006-05-02-Mild bird flu strain found in state

Understanding Avian Influenza

2006-05-02-Mild bird flu strain found in state

The bird flu virus has been conclusively identified in chickens at a southern New Jersey live bird market, the state agriculture secretary said today.

New Jersey is the second state in the United States where the virus has been conclusively detected. Last February, agriculture officials discovered the disease in birds on two farms in southern Delaware.

The announcement of the discovery in New Jersey comes less than two weeks after University officials met with local and state government representatives to formulate a plan for confronting a pandemic influenza outbreak.

The virus was found in chickens in Camden County during routine testing. This particular strain was not the deadly H5N1 strain, which has infected humans and sparked fears of a global avian flu pandemic.

"The virus was low pathogenic and not harmful to humans," New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Charles Kuperus said in a statement. "The market owner voluntarily depleted his existing stock, and the market has undergone cleaning and disinfecting under [official] supervision."

Both the strain discovered yesterday and all other avian flu strains are killed by properly cooking poultry before its consumption, according to the department of agriculture's press release.

The threat of pandemic arises because the H5N1 strain, which is unusually deadly when transmitted to humans, could develop a mechanism to easily and rapidly pass from person to person. Over 100 people have died from that strain worldwide, and millions of birds have been slaughtered in an attempt to curb a potential outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control and Preparation have issued an avian flu planning checklist for colleges, which the University is currently comparing its policies against.

While there are no specific plans in place because of the unpredictable circumstances of a pandemic, the University would work closely with government officials to distribute stockpiles of vaccines or treatments and would most likely either quarantine or distribute students so that the risk of on-campus transmission would be minimized.

The University's preparations for a potential pandemic are handled by the Emergency Preparedness Task Force, which consists of University administrators. The group was created after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Understanding Avian Influenza