SPRINGFIELD, ILL – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich unveiled a plan today to expand on-the-farm surveillance for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and ensure monitoring for the fatal brain-wasting disease is maintained in wake of a federal ban on the slaughter of downed cattle.
Under the governor’s plan, the Illinois Department of Agriculture will offer its state’s beef producers additional incentives to submit cattle exhibiting clinical signs of the disease for testing.
Effective immediately, the compensation that producers receive for submitting a downed cow 20 months of age or older will be increased from $100 to $300. In addition, the department will start paying a mileage reimbursement to producers or their contracted hauler for transporting cattle to its animal disease laboratories in Centralia and Galesburg. The reimbursement rate is $2.40 per loaded mile.
“While necessary to safeguard public health, the new ban on the slaughter of downed cattle makes surveillance for BSE much more challenging because until now it has been conducted primarily in slaughter facilities,” Blagojevich said. “This plan will expand our surveillance on farms and make sure we continue to work aggressively to monitor for the disease and protect our food supply.”
A $103,000 federal BSE surveillance grant will cover the cost of the incentives.
“It is absolutely essential to monitor downed cattle because the scientific information gathered during BSE outbreaks in Great Britain and other countries shows they are most likely to carry the disease,” Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke added. “The governor’s plan will encourage producers --- whose livelihood depends upon consumers’ confidence in the safety of the meat they produce --- to share in the responsibility for this important task.”
Veterinarians also are eligible for payments from the incentive fund. Their reimbursement will depend upon the services provided and will not affect the compensation paid to producers. Veterinarians will receive $50 for removing a cow’s head and delivering it to the animal disease laboratory for testing and $150 for additionally performing a necropsy into the cause of the cow’s illness and collecting tissue samples.
Also, in light of the recent outbreak of Avian Influenza in parts of Asia, and the detection of various strains of the virus in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Texas and most recently Maryland, the governor is asking poultry farmers to take the necessary precautions to keep the virus out of Illinois.
“Recently, the agriculture industry around the nation has been forced to re-examine the safety of our food supply,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “I am confident our food supply is safe and ask poultry farmers to follow proven biosecurity precautions to make sure we’re taking every possible precaution to prevent the introduction of the Avian flu into Illinois flocks.”
According to the World Heath Organization (WHO), migratory waterfowl, most notably wild ducks, are natural carriers of Avian Influenza viruses. They are also the most resistant to infection. Domestic poultry, including chickens and turkeys, are particularly susceptible to the disease.
The WHO noted direct or indirect contact of domestic flocks with wild migratory waterfowl has been implicated as a frequent cause of epidemics. Live bird markets have also played an important role in the spread of the virus.
“It’s important to keep in mind, there are several different strains of Avian Influenza,” Illinois Department of Agriculture acting veterinarian Dr. Colleen O’Keefe said. “H5N1, which is responsible for the deaths of at least 22 people and the depopulation of more than 80 million chickens in Thailand and Vietnam, is predominantly found in animals but does have the ability to mutate and cross over to humans. However, the H7, which has been identified in the U.S. is only found in animals and is not a known danger to humans.”
Unlike BSE, Avian Influenza is a highly contagious disease. It spreads among animals through nasal and eye secretion and manure. The virus can also be spread by equipment, vehicles, egg flats, crates and people whose clothing or shoes come in contact with the virus.
The Governor is asking poultry farmers to follow proven biosecurity precautions at the farm level to prevent the introduction and spread of the virus in Illinois.
- Stay away from live bird markets
- Avoid contact with migratory waterfowl
- Limit the number of visitors to the property where live chickens and turkeys are raised or kept to prevent tracking manure
- Monitor flocks for decreased egg production or increased mortality. Other clues are unusual signs of illness such as snicking, wheezing, lethargy or depressed
- Take additional time to conduct routine safety and biocontainment checks already in place on the farm or facility
- Know who’s coming in and out of the farm. The virus can be spread by anyone visiting an infected area. If anyone has visited an area where an outbreak exists, they should not enter another poultry house for three to five days.
- Visitors should be limited to only those individuals who need to be on the farm. Authorized visitors should wear protective clothing and shoe coverings before entering poultry houses.
- Hands and shoes should be thoroughly scrubbed and disinfected.
- Clothing and footgear worn in a poultry house should not be used anywhere else.
- Farm equipment should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before and after movement off the farm.
“It only takes a few extra minutes to make sure these safety precautions are followed through. A few minutes a day is well worth preventing the introduction of another foreign disease into Illinois borders,” said Blagojevich.
Illinois ranks 30 in the production of eggs nationwide and is not competitive in the broiler chicken industry.