|Pandemic bird flu emergency plans in the USA
Daily, infected birds are found in Europe, and also the first pet animals (cats) have died on H5N1 infection in Germany and Austria. Now also the USA reacts: Fears of a global killer flu, whether likely or not, have forced local, state, and federal officials to create pandemic emergency plans. The I-Team recently obtained internal government documents that detail ... the underground routes the virus is predicted to take to spread into North America.|
|One route poses a threat to Missouri and Illinois. It involves animal swap meets, where birds and other animals are bought and sold like items at a flea market.
We took hidden cameras into what Illinois agriculture officials call an illegal animal swap meet at the Monroe County Fairgrounds in
Waterloo, Illinois. Experts tell the I-Team the majority of people who buy and sell at swap meets are legitimate.
But they also say swap meets provide the perfect venue for smugglers. Parrots like majestic
macaws typically cost more than USD 1000. Legal birds come with papers proving where they were born. Some even have microchips implanted. Birds are the 3rd most popular pets, right behind dogs and cats.
St. Louis veterinarian Dr. Dave Kersting treats about 10 000 birds at his clinic. He receives calls from people daily worried about H5N1,
the avian flu. Dr. Kersting said, `the risk is more through smuggled birds and birds coming into the country from affected parts of the world.` Dr. Kersting says birds sold at swap meets are one of his biggest concerns.
We saw all types of birds crammed into cages, sold from the backs of trucks, and loaded into trailers. In Missouri, anyone can operate a swap meet. State agriculture officials say you don`t even need a permit.
That is not the case in Illinois. According to officials with the Illinois Department of
Agriculture, organizers of the Waterloo swap meet did not have a permit.
Under the law, the spokesperson said, organizers could be fined. At the Waterloo swap meet, we did not see any health inspectors, any agriculture officials, or anyone else who could determine where these birds came from. We did not see anyone who could ascertain whether they might be sick or whether they were legal.
2004, the federal government banned the sale of exotic birds from any country where officials detected avian influenza.
Last week, the I-Team obtained an internal US Department of Interior briefing. The heading reads `HPAI: Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza
-- Not IF, But When.` According to the report, avian flu will likely spread into the states either through international commerce like
poultry, contaminated materials, smuggling, or the pet and wildlife trade.
The report also listed migratory birds and the potential for human-to-human transmission. Mike Williams is the director for communicable disease control and emergency preparedness at the St.
Louis County Health Department.
At a recent pandemic planning seminar, Williams said, `it will enter one of 2 ways, either through migratory birds or smuggled birds. It`s possible the smuggled bird might be the earlier event.`
United States Fish and Wildlife agents are trying to stop smugglers at airports and seaports. But, they`re outnumbered. There are only 120 agents trying to inspect thousands of imports a day.
The Midwest Bird and Animal Breeders Association organized the Waterloo swap meet. The group`s president told me he didn`t know he needed a permit.
In the future, he said he would get one from state authorities. He also said he would clamp down on vendors who do not have required documents.
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