Bird flu raises fears over vaccine supply, human risk

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, June 29, 2015 - Lawmakers are raising concerns that the avian influenza outbreak that has devastated Midwest poultry producers could threaten supplies of human vaccines and possibly spread to people through swine.

Top members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees public health issues, are seeking assurances from the Obama administration that there will be sufficient supplies of vaccines that have to be produced through chicken eggs. This spring's outbreak of the bird flu devastated poultry farms in Iowa, Minnesota and other Midwest states.

The lawmakers also want to know what assessments the administration has done of the potential risk of the virus spreading to humans.

Together we can feed the Bees"

“The current sub-types of avian influenza do not appear to infect humans, but there is concern they could affect swine, which have spread avian influenza to humans in the past,” the lawmakers say in a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services. They also want to know what the government is doing to develop vaccines against the virus.

A spokesman for the department declined to comment on the letter, saying HHS officials would respond directly to the lawmakers.

The lawmakers are separately asking the Government Accountability Office to review the adequacy of the Agriculture Department's response to the outbreak. Among other things, the lawmakers want to know how well USDA is ensuring that poultry producers have adequate biosecurity measures.

“Despite USDA's efforts, the efforts of scientists and the actions taken by farmers to protect their commercial flocks, this virus continues to spread,” says a letter to GAO.

The letters were signed by the chairman of the committee, Fred Upton, R-Mich., and its ranking member, Frank Pallone, D-N.J., as well as the chairman and ranking Democrat on the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

Trying to keep up with the news on the avian flu outbreak? Sign up for an Agri-Pulse four-week free trial subscription to stay on top of this and other food, ag, rural policy and energy issues.

The last detection of the flu virus was June 17, according to USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Some 48 million birds have been affected, nearly 32 million in Iowa alone.

The House's fiscal 2016 appropriations bill for USDA and Food and Drug Administration would provide $3 million for outreach efforts aimed at bolstering biosecurity at poultry operations and an extra $5 million -- a 50 percent increase -- for laboratories burdened with testing for the avian influenza.

#30 


Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
blog comments powered by Disqus
 Most Popular