The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expecting a possible resurgence of the bird flu virus this fall and said it will start preparing measures to contain any potential outbreak. Over 48 million birds in 15 states have died since an outbreak started in December 2014.
Although the virus seemed to look to have been contained since it has been three weeks since the last reported case, according to Dr. David Swayne, director of a USDA poultry research laboratory in Georgia, the government agency said it will continue working on measures to ensure an outbreak will not occur again.
Apart from working on a vaccine, the agency plans to put one person per infected farm during times the facility has been stricken by the deadly bird flu virus. John Clifford, the chief U.S. veterinary officer, said told a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing this plan will ensure farmers are well attended and monitored during such times of crises. The current set-up for a USDA representative in dealing with infected farms is four weeks maximum, after which they get rotated to other farms.
Most of the losses from the December outbreak have been on Iowa’s egg-laying hens. Overall, the U.S. lost 7.5 million turkeys and 42 million chickens and young hens. As such, the country will be forced to import eggs from European markets to ensure adequate supply in the market and help make up the shortage from the millions of birds lost to the outbreak.
The good news is that the virus that downed the poultry “does not cause any particular concern at this time for the Centers for Disease Control and Health and Human Services,” Clifford said.
However, the outbreak has cost the USDA over $500 million, an amount over half the yearly discretionary budget of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. “We can and will request additional funds should we need to.”