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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 9, 2007

Gov. Blagojevich announces grant for additional monitoring of avian influenza
Illinois enters into intergovernmental agreement with USDA to conduct surveillance of game bird and poultry farms

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced the state would begin surveillance for avian influenza among Illinois wild game bird and poultry breeders. Through an intergovernmental agreement with the USDA, the state has been awarded $165,000 in funding to work with game bird and poultry producers to provide free testing for the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in captive-reared game birds and poultry.

“Bird flu continues to be a concern in parts of Asia and Europe, and even though we haven’t seen signs of the disease in the U.S., we need to make sure Illinois is in the best possible position to detect the disease early,” said Gov. Blagojevich.

In an effort to enhance the capacity to detect highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in the United States, the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) will participate in a joint effort to increase surveillance in Illinois for avian flu. The program allows for IDOA to provide necropsies (autopsies) of game birds and appropriate testing for avian flu. Flock owners who elect to be a part of the program may submit up to 10 birds per flock every 6 months for necropsy to the Animal Disease Laboratory in Centralia or Galesburg or the University of Illinois-College of Veterinary Medicine’s Diagnostic Laboratory at no charge to the owners.

This agreement will also cover the cost of having a licensed veterinarian travel to the farm, drawing blood samples, submitting the sample and testing the samples at the Animal Disease Laboratory Galesburg for 30 birds per flock every 6 months.

The IDOA will provide reimbursement funding for these and other low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) and HPAI surveillance activities with the poultry industry throughout Illinois through a cooperative agreement with the USDA. Letters have been sent to all game bird license holders in Illinois and all those with registered poultry flocks alerting them of the availability of the program.

“While the Asian strain of high path avian influenza has never been identified in the United States, we want to assist these breeders in monitoring and testing for the disease, which will better our chances of catching the problem early and eliminating it, should it ever become necessary,” said IDOA Director Chuck Hartke.

“This expansion to include captive game birds allows breeders to voluntarily have their flocks tested at no additional cost to them, providing the state with greater detection ability for avian flu and providing the breeder with greater assurance of the health of their flock,” said IDNR Acting Director Sam Flood. “Testing last fall of hunter-harvested waterfowl was very successful, and we’ll continue with those efforts this spring.”

The IDNR announced plans in the fall of 2006 to participate in the national surveillance effort for highly-pathogenic (HP) Asian H5N1 avian influenza by collecting samples from hunter-harvested waterfowl. Illinois was awarded $75,000 by the USDA to pursue statewide surveillance of certain species of wild birds for the disease. Approximately 800 samples are expected to have been tested by the conclusion of spring migration. Samples are being taken from several species of ducks and geese that were selected based on migratory connections to other continents where HP Asian H5N1 is known to occur. A secondary group of species that have potential to intermix with those in the primary species set will also be a part of the collection sample.

Currently, HP Asian H5N1, which has caused mortality in domestic poultry, wild birds, and humans on other continents, has not been detected in North America. While the role of wild birds in transporting HP Asian H5N1 is not clear, this surveillance effort will help to ensure early detection of the disease should it arrive in North America.

The state has taken a number of steps to address the potential for avian flu in the U.S.:
• The IDNR sampled nearly 700 hunter-harvested waterfowl at 21 sites across the state this past fall. The IDNR will live-trap and sample some diving ducks during this spring’s migration.
• In April 2006, the Illinois Department of Agriculture laboratory in Galesburg became the first lab in the state to receive certification to perform viral testing for avian influenza. The updated status of the lab will significantly cut down the time it takes to determine whether a suspected case of bird flu may in fact be positive.
• The IDOA on Monday conducted a table top simulation to evaluate the agency’s response in the case of an avian flu or other animal disease outbreak.

Experts recommend humans who are in contact with wild birds follow standard sanitary practices:
• Do not handle or eat sick game.
• Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves while handling and cleaning game, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water, and thoroughly clean knives, equipment and surfaces that come in contact with game.
• Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling animals.
• All game should be thoroughly cooked (well done or 160° F). Additional information on food safety can be found at: www.who.int/entity/foodsafety/fs_management/No_02_Avianinfluenza_Dec04_en.pdf.

Flock owners can avoid contracting or spreading the disease by practicing good biosecurity measures:

• Restrict access to your property and your birds.
• Keep your property clean.
• Don’t haul disease home.
• Don’t borrow disease from your neighbor.
• Know the warning signs of infectious bird diseases.
• Report sick birds to your veterinarian or IDOA.


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