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News Release
  Release No. 0006.06
Contact:
Angela Harless (202) 841-0832
Kristin Scuderi (202) 720-4623

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  USDA EXPERTS PART OF U.S. AVIAN INFLUENZA TEAM TO TURKEY
 

WASHINGTON Jan. 13, 2006- U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today announced USDA is contributing to a team of influenza experts to assess the situation there and offer further support, as part of the United States' support of Turkey's efforts to manage and prepare for avian influenza.

"We recognize the value of partnering and assisting the international community to our hopes of preventing the further spread of avian influenza," said Johanns. "This is another important link in our efforts to safeguard the U.S."

The USDA team members are experts in avian influenza and are trained in veterinary science, laboratory analysis and communications. The team expects to arrive in Ankara, Turkey on Monday to meet with Turkish government officials and with representatives of international organizations, such as the World Health Organization, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, already working locally on avian influenza. Members of the team will subsequently travel to Turkish regions affected by the flu to see first hand efforts already underway and help support efforts to fight avian influenza and stop it from spreading.

This effort is part of the worldwide efforts of the U.S. to work against this global threat. The interagency team will consist of experts in animal and human health surveillance, laboratory capacity, and public health communications from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agency for International Development, Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of State.

HPAI, or "high path" avian influenza, is fatal and more easily transmissible than "low path" avian influenza strains that have been common in the U.S. since the early 1900s. HPAI H5N1 is the type currently affecting parts of Asia and Eastern Europe. This Asian strain of H5N1 has been transmitted from birds to humans, most of whom had extensive, direct contact with infected birds. The Asian strain of H5N1 has not been detected in the U.S. HPAI has been detected three times in the United States: in 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 outbreaks.

Since the first human case was detected in December, 18 people in Turkey have been diagnosed with the H5N1 virus. Three people in the far eastern region of Turkey have died, while all people infected have had direct contact with domestic fowl. There is no evidence of human-to-human infection.

Additional information about USDA avian influenza efforts can be found at: http://www.usda.gov/birdflu and on the U.S. government's comprehensive website at http://www.pandemicflu.gov.