17 Mar UW–Madison works to protect Wisconsin poultry from avian flu
It was only a matter of time, Keith Poulsen knew.
Poulsen, director of the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, with a team of diagnostic scientists led by Ailam Lim, had been closely tracking the ongoing spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza as migrating wild birds were spreading it across the country this winter and spring.
So, his team was prepared when they recently identified Wisconsin’s first known case of the virus, from a commercial chicken producer in Jefferson County.
Now, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection establish zones of control around infected flocks, the WVDL is prepared to assist with a surge of testing that will help prevent the spread of the virus as birds and eggs are moved around the state.
Although avian influenza viruses can infect humans — typically those who work closely with infected birds — there has been no documented spread to people in the U.S. of the Eurasian H5N1 strain currently circulating. However, the outbreak will likely lead to the culling of millions of birds across the country and commensurate hardships for the poultry industry. The price of eggs, and poultry derived meat products, will also likely rise.
“Working with state and federal partners, we have been really good at controlling the virus by finding it quickly and establishing these control zones,” says Poulsen.