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Contact: Karen Eggert (301) 734-7280
Andrea McNally (202) 690-4178

Statement by Dr. John Clifford on H5N2 Detection in West Virginia

April 1, 2007

“On Saturday, March 31, 2007, our National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed that test results for samples collected the day before from turkeys at a farm in West Virginia are indicative of exposure to an H5N2 avian influenza virus. We can say for certain that this is not the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus that has spread through birds in Asia, Europe and Africa.  Every indication is that the virus is consistent with low pathogenic strains of avian influenza, or LPAI, which are commonly found in birds and typically cause only minor sickness or no noticeable symptoms.  LPAI viruses pose no risk to human health. 

“The samples were collected by an industry group as part of routine, pre-slaughter surveillance. The turkeys showed no signs of illness and there was no mortality.  NVSL plans to run sequencing and pathogenicity tests to further identify the virus.

“This evening, West Virginia officials will depopulate the turkey flock from which the positive samples were taken, which includes approximately 25,000 birds. While LPAI poses no risk to human health, USDA's policy is to eradicate all H5 and H7 subtypes because of their potential to mutate into highly pathogenic avian influenza, which has a high mortality rate among birds. Additionally, all poultry operations within a six mile radius of the affected farm will be closely monitored. 

“International animal health standards now require countries to report all H5 and H7 detections. USDA will notify the World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, of the H5N2 detection in West Virginia.  This detection should not significantly impact U.S. exports of poultry and poultry products. International standards call for a regionalized approach to trade restrictions and USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service will work closely with trading partners to ensure any trade restrictions are based on science and lifted at the appropriate time.

“Because the affected poultry producer participates in the expanded National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP), USDA will provide 100 percent indemnity for all specified costs associated with depopulating this flock. USDA published an interim rule on September 26, 2006, expanding the voluntary cooperative federal, state and industry program to provide indemnity for eradication of H5 and H7 LPAI outbreaks.  We will also provide support in the depopulation process.

“USDA remains committed to transparency as we monitor for all strains of avian influenza. We will continue to work closely with state partners and the poultry industry in this effort.”

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