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Thursday, December 1st, 2005 -- 12:09 PM

Most experts agree the most real threat from Avian Influenza in America is to the bird population. Clark County Emergency Management hosted a meeting Wednesday of area agriculture leaders, Clark County department heads and health officials to discuss how they?d handle an agriculture emergency.

While most reports on the bird flu have dealt with the real, but somewhat remote chance, the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus may mutate to become transmittable between humans, it?s more likely it will affect birds, according to Michael Sampson, a liaison for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection?s Division of Animal Health.

In fact, experts expect Avian Influenza to show up in America?s bird population eventually, according to Sampson.

Experts agree there are two ways the flu could realistically move into the United State: migratory water fowl or by a human carrier.

"The chances of us having Avian Influenza spread from birds directly to humans if very slim," Sampson says.

However, small-scale poultry operations are at risk.

"Particularly the backyard flocks where exposure may occur to wild migratory fowl,? Samspson explains. ?Large commercial organizations have very, very strong safeguards in place to prevent contamination.?

Upon the virus? discovery, a plan relying on the Incident Command System, or ICS, will go into effect.

"Samples would be taken. We'd be looking at clinical signs in the poultry. If things indeed came back positive, we'd enact a full response plan, which would typically involve euthanasia of the affected birds and disposal of the carcasses," Sampson explains.

Establishing a commander, a lead person, will be key in addressing a possible outbreak.

"That belongs to the state or federal government. Counties don't have an animal disease response mechanism. It would be a joint response involving both state and federal folks," Sampson says.

Another workshop concerning response to Avian Influenza was planned for Thursday afternoon.

Feel free to contact us with questions and/or comments.