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STATEMENT BY DR_ JOHN CLIFFORD ON AVIAN INFLUENZA DETECTION IN VIRGINIA

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Karen Eggert (301) 734-7280

July 11, 2007

“USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratories tonight confirmed the presence of antibodies indicating a possible prior exposure to an H5N1 avian influenza virus in samples collected from a turkey farm in Virginia. There have been no signs of illness or death in the birds, indicating that this is not the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus that has spread through birds in Asia, Europe and Africa. Additionally, several thousand poultry samples collected from poultry operations in the area of the affected farm have all been negative for avian influenza, reinforcing the conclusion that this involves a common avian influenza virus that poses no threat to human health. Every indication is that the virus detected is consistent with the North American strain of low pathogenic H5N1, which is not a human health concern. LPAI is commonly found in birds and typically causes only minor sickness or no noticeable symptoms in birds.

“The samples were collected as part of routine, pre-slaughter surveillance. The turkeys showed no signs of illness, and there was no mortality. Thus far, there is no evidence the virus is actually present in the samples collected. The testing detected only antibodies, which indicate possible past exposure to the virus. NVSL will continue to do further testing to better characterize the virus to which these birds may have been exposed.

“Virginia animal health officials and industry are depopulating the turkey flock from which the positive samples were taken, which includes approximately 54,000 birds. This is consistent with the established procedures to respond to all low pathogenic H5 and H7 subtypes of avian influenza.

“LPAI H5N1 has been detected in the United States and was most recently found in wild birds in October 2006. All LPAI H5N1 detections are made public and are available on our website. USDA remains committed to a continued partnership with state, federal and industry partners to monitor for all strains of avian influenza and to providing the public important and timely information on our findings.”

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