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Vilsack Stresses Biosecurity Amid Bird Flu Spread, Mexico Fatality

Amid four human cases of avian flu in the U.S. and now a fatal case in Mexico, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack is stressing the need for stepped-up biosecurity and vigilance.

A 59-year-old Mexican man who died after being infected with a bird flu sub-type never before confirmed in humans was already bed-ridden for weeks with underlying conditions. But even before his death, Secretary Vilsack stressed the need for heightened biosecurity.

“I think our challenge here is to make sure our producers are well aware, fully aware of the importance of biosecurity, not just for their operation, but for its impact on other operations,” according to Vilsack.

He stresses that importance as workers, veterinarians, and even equipment move from farm to farm. Vilsack says USDA’s new voluntary testing pilot will help. He says, “By paying for biosecurity plans, by providing protection for workers, reimbursement for the cost of PPE, encouraging more testing, by basically paying the cost of testing, and understanding that there are veterinarian costs incurred with infected cows, creating an opportunity for those to be reimbursed up to a point.”

Vilsack refuted criticism that not enough testing is being done to contain outbreaks now in nine states with infected cows and 48 with infected poultry.

“Literally, thousands of tests have been conducted and reviewed, not only of cattle but also of milk,” says Vilsack. “A multitude of samples of milk from a variety of different sources from, directly from the cows, from bulk tanks, and on the farm.”

Add to that a federal order restricting interstate cattle movement. All, Vilsack says, to be able to say, ‘cows recover, milk is safe, and there’s little risk to human health.’

The World Health Organization agrees but also stresses global surveillance as flu viruses constantly evolve, as now shown by the human infection by an avian sub-variant in Mexico.

Story by Matt Kaye/Berns Bureau, courtesy of NAFB News Service

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