Beware bird flu, U.S. poultry industry told Copyright 1998 Nando.net Copyright 1998 Reuters ATLANTA (January 23, 1998 3:55 p.m. EST http://www.nando.net) - A U.S. poultry association official urged producers Friday to consider stocking up on vaccines to protect their flocks against the avian flu that has killed six people in Hong Kong. Charles Beard, the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association's vice- president for research and technology, said the industry should "buy insurance" by purchasing vaccines, even though there is no indication the virus is spreading. "The big question right now is how much vaccine is needed," Beard told the association's International Poultry Exposition meeting. He said vaccination, if approved by the U.S. Agriculture Department, could prevent major losses in the industry. He said the highly pathogenic bird virus had not spread internationally since it sickened 18 people last year, but he added that no one really knew what would happen in the future. "We have got to keep influenza from occurring in commercial poultry," Beard said. He outlined a priority list under which breeder stocks would be inoculated first and sufficient egg production would be ensured to produce more vaccine. David Swayne at the U.S. Agriculture Department's Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory said the risk of the flu virus spreading into the United States was "negligible." He said federal and state authorities performed routine surveys of commercial poultry for influenza virus and no poultry or raw poultry products were imported into the United States from Hong Kong. Swayne said Hong Kong would have a massive program in place by the end of the month to screen poultry flocks for a recurrence of the virus. Hong Kong authorities killed 1.3 million ducks, chickens and turkeys last month in an effort to eradicate the disease. Beard said a recurrence of the Hong Kong bird flu in humans could affect consumer confidence in domestic poultry supplies.
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