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Abstract

Some influenza viruses, such as the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza that appeared in south-east Asia in mid-2003, can be devastating to domestic poultry and some of these may cause severe illness in humans and even death. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), Division of Animal Industry, regularly monitors our domestic fowl for evidence of influenza. Poultry from other countries with serious strains of avian influenza virus are not permitted to enter the United States. Commercial poultry must originate from avian influenza free flocks. Veterinarians, veterinary laboratories, and those working with birds are required to report diseases suspected as being influenza. Diseased poultry are tested and fully investigated and any reports of influenza-like disease are handled on an urgent basis until the disease can be fully identified and assessed. In the event of finding a serious strain, emergency measures will be taken immediately to contain the virus among exposed poultry. Quarantine and other emergency plans are in place to eradicate such a disease as quickly as possible, should it be found. Samples are regularly collected from live bird markets, fairs and exhibits, botanicas, backyard flocks and commercial poultry breeding flocks in the state, and they participate in a voluntary surveillance and testing program. Florida has had Emergency Plans in place since 2005 for rapid containment and eradication of disease in Florida and also to protect flocks not in the affected areas. FDACS works closely with the Florida Department of Health (DOH) and the Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC)-Wildlife Services. FWC-Wildlife Services also conduct surveillance testing of wild and domestic birds in Florida. Additional preparedness steps are the establishment of a Poultry Emergency Disease Committee, GIS mapping of all poultry premises, establishment of a work group with USDA, DOH and FWC and outreach education programs using presentations and brochures. A future influenza pandemic in humans is considered a certainty by the scientific community, but when it will happen is entirely uncertain. In January 2007, the FDACS, the Florida Division of Emergency Management met with food and water distributors and leaders of the Florida agriculture industry to address the supply and distribution of food in the event of an influenza pandemic. Since most small agribusinesses lack the financial or personnel resources to develop Pandemic Influenza preparedness plans, FDACS and DOH prepared a small business pandemic influenza preparedness "Tool Kit". Every level of agricultural production - from the materials supplied to farms to the commodities sold at retail - should be taken into account in a comprehensive plan to maintain delivery of food to consumers during an influenza pandemic. A copy of the preparedness brochure may be down loaded at the following web site: http://www.doacs.state.fl.us/pdf/Pandemic_Influenza_Agriculture_Planning_Toolkit.pdf.

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