Iowa State University is hosting medical and public-health professionals from all over the world at a week-long training session on how to spot and diagnose bird flu. Doctor Jim Roth, Director of the Center for Food Security and Public Health, says there have been other strains of avian influenza around for a long time.
While he says the disease is not “guaranteed” to appear in the U.S., it’s likely to be carried to this continent and country eventually, probably by migrating birds will bring it in. With a good system of surveillance, we’ll probably find the outbreak of the disease quickly when it gets here, and will be prepared to stamp it out when it occurs. One question is just what form the disease will take.
One form would be the type they see now in parts of the world, in which the bug spreads easily from one bird to another and it’s easy to stamp out in the bird flocks. A greater concern is that the germ could mutate into a form that can spread easily from person to person. That’s when it becomes a public-health emergency. But Iowa’s tackled animal diseases so far, the veterinary professor says.
We’ve eradicated a number of animal diseases from this country, including foot-and-mouth disease years ago, hog cholera, pseudorabies and even earlier forms of bird flu, which were successfully wiped out. Visitors include public-health workers from countries as diverse as the former Soviet Union, Malaysia, Korea, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Romania.
He says there are people from fourteen countries in all including some in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. The first day they didn’t know anybody but the guests already know each other now and Roth says “It’s a very good working environment.” The researchers are being trained at the ISU veterinary medical center by scientists from the USDA lab in Ames.
By Radio Iowa’s Stella Shaffer