Government Relations

UM Legislative Update Newsletter

January 6, 2006

Sen. Talent & U.S. Secretary of Agriculture visit MU to discuss avian flu

U.S. Senator Jim Talent chaired a roundtable at MU’s College of Veterinary Medicine on Thursday, Jan. 7, that featured Mike Johanns, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, and several other veterinary and agriculture officials to discuss the federal government’s efforts to prepare for the avian flu. Talent, who is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, talked about the role of agriculture in the control and eradication of avian flu as part of a series of stops in Missouri.

“Avian flu is first and foremost an animal disease, which is why it is so important for the government to partner with the agriculture community in Missouri and around the country to protect against an outbreak,” Talent said. “We are doing everything possible in the Senate to anticipate and prevent an outbreak by providing emergency funding and holding oversight hearings.”

Other participants included U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-Columbia); Fred Ferrell, director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture; Tom Payne, dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at MU; Joe Kornegay, Dean of the MU College of Veterinary Medicine; Alex Bermudez, director of MU’s Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory; Shane Brookshire, state veterinarian; David Hopson, state federal veterinarian in charge; and Howard Pue, the state public health veterinarian.

Avian Influenza (AI) is primarily an animal disease caused by certain strains of the influenza virus. Although very weak strains of AI are occasionally found in U.S. birds, the more potent H5N1 strain that is causing concern in Asia and Europe has never been identified in the U.S. The current outbreak in Southeast Asia and parts of Europe is affecting poultry and a limited amount of humans that have been in direct contact with the infected animals. The virus has not yet demonstrated the ability to pass directly from human to human, and science has not determined whether this is possible.

In 2004, MU’s Veterinary Medical Diagnostics Laboratory became part of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network that designates the center as a location to assist with responses to biological and chemical threats to animal agriculture and the security of our food supply.

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