"Although avian flu has not been found in Illinois, we can't ignore
the devastating reports of loss and major economic damage in other
parts of the world where the virus has hit," Blagojevich said. "We
have to take every possible step to detect and contain the disease
if it ever does appear in Illinois. Having our own lab where we can
test for bird flu helps us accomplish that."
There are two
components that allow the Galesburg lab to test for avian flu.
Through funding from the Illinois Terrorism Task Force, the lab
obtained state-of-the-art equipment nearly two years ago to test for
a variety of diseases, including avian influenza. Now, the lab has
received the necessary certification to conduct the initial
screening test for avian flu.
"Before obtaining this certification, if we had received a
suspect case of avian flu, the sample would have immediately been
shipped the federal laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for testing," said
Chuck Hartke, director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
"That process can take anywhere from three days to two weeks,
depending on their caseload. We don't have that kind of time if
certain strains of avian flu make their way to Illinois. Now, within
hours of receiving the suspect sample at the Galesburg lab, we'll
have a much better handle on what we're dealing with."
"Early detection and rapid response is critical in containing
avian flu," said Dr. Colleen O'Keefe, division manager for food
safety and animal protection. "Upon receiving results from our lab
that we may have a positive case of bird flu, we can immediately
quarantine necessary areas, begin the trace-back and provide the
public with the appropriate information pending final determination
from the federal laboratory."
Avian influenza is a rapidly spreading viral disease that mainly
affects birds, including chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, ducks,
geese and guinea fowl as well as a wide variety of other birds.
Migratory birds are also known to carry the less infectious strains
of avian flu viruses.
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Avian influenza strains are divided into two groups: low
pathogenicity or "low path" and high pathogenicity or "high path."
Low-path avian influenza has existed in the United States since the
early 1900s and is commonly found. It can be fatal to birds but
poses no threat to human health. High-path avian influenza is the
type currently affecting parts of Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe.
These strains of disease in Asia have been transmitted from birds to
humans. The disease is spread through nasal secretions and feces of
infected birds. So far, only those in close contact with infected
birds have contracted it. High-path avian influenza has been
detected three times in the United States: 1924, 1983 and 2004. The
2004 outbreak was quickly confined to one flock and eradicated.
There were no human illnesses reported in connection with these
Avian flu can be prevented by avoiding direct contact with
infected poultry or surfaces and objects contaminated by their
feces. To date, most human cases have occurred in rural areas where
many households keep small poultry flocks, which often roam freely,
sometimes entering homes or sharing outdoor areas where children
play. In the United States 95 percent of chicken and egg production
occurs in henhouses.
Flock owners can avoid contracting or spreading the disease by
practicing good biosecurity measures:
about the health of neighboring animals.
Not moving animals
from farm to farm.
flocks away from wild birds.
unauthorized people and vehicles from the farm.
equipment and clothing going on and off the farm.
Disposing of all dead
The Department of Agriculture recommends that poultry flock
owners notify a veterinarian of any suspected avian flu cases or
call the department at (217) 782-4944.
[News release from the governor's