Flu-Infected Flocks Killed, Educator Points To Possible Pandemic

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)- The strain of avian flu found in hens in northwest Arkansas is not the same as the deadly H5 strain that's killed more than 200 people worldwide.

The Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission released in a statement this week that the infected breeder flock has been depopulated and disposed of and additional testing will continue within a 6.2 mile radius of the index flock as per Arkansas Livestock & Poultry Commission's Avian Influenza Plan.

Still, one Region 8 educator says a worldwide flu outbreak could be just around the corner.

Kathy Blackman is with St. Bernards Healthcare and has been spending the last four years studying the implications of a flu pandemic. She says we're long overdue for the next big outbreak.

"If you think about air travel and people who travel for work, for example," said Blackman. "We really do need to think how fast something could travel around the world."

Blackman points out that while the strain of bird flu apparent in poultry in west Arkansas isn't the same deadly strain that's been found in Asia, it's still hitting poultry producers hard.

"It's going to have a major economic impact," she said. "For example, the increased testing that would perhaps be instituted in all the other areas to make sure their flocks don't have it."

It's testing to weed out these virus-infected flocks, Blackman says, that while costly, ends up saving the company in the long run.

"People get scared, but we have probably the best controlled poultry industry in the whole world."

The deadly H5 strain of bird flu has never been detected in North America.

But it's the threat of a global bird flu pandemic, Blackman says, that still exists.

"In order to be able to react appropriately, we've got to do this kind of planning up front."

Blackman says disaster preparedness is a key component of the seminars she gives to schools and businesses. Log onto http://www.sbrmc.com/ for more information.

Questions or Comments? E-mail me at rsmith@kait8.com