Poultry Industry
Wants Secrecy For
H7N2-Stricken Farms

From Patricia Doyle, PhD
Hello Jeff - If the poultry industry wants to (essentially) cover up the H7N2 outbreak and not identify the outbreak farms, one can only imagine what they will do when the Asian H5N1 bird flu hits the US. How much honesty will we get then?
Patricia Doyle
Poultry Industry Makes Plea To Suppress Flu Details
By Sarah Lesher
In the wake of an economically devastating avian flu outbreak in the Delmarva region [the Eastern seaboard states of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia] in 2004, poultry producers asked lawmakers Friday for legislation to conceal the identity of infected farms, saying they want to avoid panicked embargoes by overseas purchasers.
However, secrecy would also limit the ability of non-government officials to monitor disease spread, potentially placing human populations at risk.
At a meeting of the Eastern Shore delegation to the General Assembly on Friday, Bill Satterfield, executive director of Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., asked state legislators to support HB76, authorizing civil penalties for people who violate animal health regulations, and HB104, protecting the identity of infected farms.
And the industry sought to assure the legislators that they are doing all they can to ensure safety at their farms.
"We're now working with county health departments and other states to protect workers against avian influenza," said Ron Darnell, Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc. president.
[Maryland State] Delegate D. Page Elmore, R-38A-Wicomico [Republican, District 38A, Wicomico County], asked another lawmaker to research the question of trade sanctions and export bans.
The strain of flu that infected Delmarva poultry in 2004 -- H7N2 -- is not very virulent. Only 2 poultry workers of hundreds tested showed signs of having been infected with the disease.
However, in Southeast Asia, other strains of avian flu have long been known to spread to -- and kill -- humans in close contact with poultry.
Recently a young Vietnamese girl died of a different strain of avian flu, H5N1, after contact with poultry. Her mother and aunt, who had no direct contact with poultry, then became sick, and the mother died, raising fears that the flu had evolved into a form transmissible from human to human with the potential of causing a pandemic, according to recent news reports.
Outbreaks occurred in 1957 and 1968, possibly from flu that jumped from birds to humans and then changed so it could move directly from human to human, said Dr. Richard Slemons, Ohio State University professor of veterinary medicine.
Slemons noted that the poultry industry is so vertically integrated that even if Europe refuses to accept imports of American poultry for a week the cost can be millions of dollars.
"Maryland and Delaware did a great job last year" containing the disease, Slemons said. "We're due for another pandemic. The only thing that's predictable is that (the viruses are) unpredictable."
There has been no recorded case of human-to-human transmission of avian flu strains in North America, said Llelwyn Grant, Centers for Disease Control spokesman.
As a one-time civil servant with a number of governments (Canada, UK) and the UN (FAO, PAHO) and latterly as a moderator for ProMED, I have witnessed more than a few efforts by various agencies to suppress the release of 'bad' information. It is always counter-productive and makes a difficult situation worse. Why?
Because such information always comes out eventually, either in the early confusion or latterly, and it makes people angry and confrontational. The rapid release of 'bad' news means that the person releasing it has control of that news and journalists and others turn to that person or group for follow-up information. How many of us want that to be a journalist who at best may only know 40 percent of what actually happened? And a quick and accurate release (and apology if necessary) makes for thin lawyers.
If those _responsible_ release the information 1st, it can ensure that the information available is accurate, though it might have a distinct angle. Also, in time, they gain respect and trust, and latterly some leeway because there is a track record of their doing the best they can, maybe in difficult circumstances.
It is interesting how a bad condition can be red-flagged by the sudden absence of reports. We see this all the time with various governments, and if they do it once, we begin to distrust what they do report; afterwards, whatever they do is not enough to regain that confidence. Just think of the Canadians and their honesty on BSE... because they were patently open, their word is believed on a wider spectrum of activities.
And when information is suppressed it usually goes hand-in-hand with an administration not improving the situation that facilitated the problem in the first place, be it a disease outbreak, poor control efficiency, emergence of new pathogens or increased problems with an old one, whatever. It is a public certification of an ongoing mess.
While there is a fear that information and data will be abused by "others," this may be true in the short term, but it becomes balanced and frequently sooner rather than later.
And to finally there is that apocryphal quote, "Get it out fast or do you want to read about it on ProMED?" - Mod.MHJ
Patricia A. Doyle, PhD
Please visit my "Emerging Diseases" message board
Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa
Go with God and in Good Health



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