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Bird Flu Outbreak Continues To Puzzle Researchers And Experts

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21 million birds in the Midwestern states have been claimed by the deadly H5N2 bird flu virus ever since its first arrival in the United States five months ago. Scientists need to do more research and tests about the H5N2 bird flu virus that has threatened the poultry population, most especially the chicken and turkey supply of the country.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) along with other federal agencies still cannot figure how the H5N2 virus keeps on spreading despite of intensified biosecurity measures. They experimented on exposed backyard flocks but no evident widespreading deaths were recorded.

The biosecurity measures of poultry farms being implemented include workers assignment to specific areas, changing boots and clothes before entering barns, and disinfecting equipment and vehicles before they start operating on the barns.

The present H5N2 virus was originally identified in the US last December from a wild bird on the West Coast, after its discovery in Canada last winter. The virus has jeopardized several poultry operations in eight Midwest states last spring pressuring the owners to wipe out millions of chickens and turkeys.

Experts have gathered multiple speculations on how the virus is spreading to the poultry population. Some scientists believed that lowly animals like rats or other smaller birds looking for food carried the virus into the poultry farms. Other researchers speculated flies as the major carrier, which were the known culprits for the avian influenza virus in the Pennsylvania epidemic back in 1983 and also in Japan in 2004. Just last week, the chief veterinarian of USDA suggested that the wind has blown feathers and dust transporting the H5N2 virus from barnyards into buildings through air vents.

Some experts believed that the virus will die as the temperature heats up and ultraviolet light surges. With warmer weather expected soon, this theory will be tested and the infections should decline.

As poultry operations are continuously affected by the virus, USDA epidemiologists are still researching whether the H5N2 virus is originating from a wild carrier that causes a chain reaction from one barn to another near farm.

It remains a mystery for experts that infections have not been spreading on backyard flocks. As of the moment, the USDA have recorded 12 cases from different states, namely, Wisconsin, Oregon, Montana, Minnesota, Kansas and in Idaho, including 5 reports from Washington from January to February. Some incidents may have not been reported but the government is currently giving incentives to commercial owners if they will immediately inform agencies, plus payment for each live bird with H5N2 killed.

The H5N2 virus has not been transferred to humans but agencies are already developing vaccines in case of a human outbreak.

Photo: steve p2008 | Flickr

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