State's big poultry industry raises bird-flu stakes

INDIANA - Caution is rising in Indiana, which produces 100 million chickens, turkeys and ducks a year.

A hunter may shoot a duck that looks sickly. Or a biologist could come across birds whose deaths aren't easily explained. Or a random test will reveal the dreaded news.

Although the avian influenza virus has not reached the United States, Indiana wildlife and emergency management officials -- operating under the assumption it eventually will reach the Hoosier state -- are drawing up plans to monitor and test wild birds, warn the public and keep the virus from spreading to domestic animals.

The stakes are high, not only because of the chance a human could contract the deadly virus, but also because Indiana has one of the country's largest poultry industries, producing around 100 million chickens, turkeys and ducks a year.

The virus has spread to birds in Europe and Africa, after originating in Southeast Asia. Scientists say if it reaches the United States, it will probably show up first in Alaska, in birds that migrated through Asia. From there, it could spread to the rest of North America.

"I think it's not if, but when" it reaches this country, said Eric Dietz, executive director of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. "We have a daily or weekly story about how it's shown up someplace else. We cannot say it would never be a risk for us."

Source: The Indianapolis Star
calendar icon 20 March 2006
clock icon 1 minute read
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