ANNAPOLIS -- In the wake of an economically devastating avian flu outbreak
in the Delmarva region last year, poultry producers asked lawmakers Friday for
legislation to conceal the identity of infected farms, saying they want to
avoid panicked embargos by overseas purchasers.
However secrecy would also limit the ability of non-government officials to
monitor disease spread, potentially placing human populations at risk.
At a meeting of the Eastern Shore delegation to the General Assembly Friday,
Bill Satterfield, executive director of Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., asked
state legislators to support HB76, authorizing civil penalties for people who
violate animal health regulations, and HB104, protecting the identity of
And the industry sought to assure the legislators that they are doing all
they can to ensure safety at their farms.
"We're now working with county health departments and other states to
protect workers against avian influenza," said Ron Darnell, Delmarva Poultry
Industry Inc. president.
Delegate D. Page Elmore, R-Wicomico, asked another lawmaker to research the
question of trade sanctions and export bans.
The strain of flu that infected Delmarva poultry last year - H7N2 - is not
very virulent. Only two poultry workers of hundreds tested showed signs of
having been infected with the disease.
However, in Southeast Asia, other strains of avian flu have long been known
to spread to -- and kill -- humans in close contact with poultry.
Recently a young Vietnamese girl died of a different strain of avian flu,
H5N1, after contact with poultry. Her mother and aunt, who had no direct
contact with poultry, then became sick, and the mother died, raising fears that
the flu had evolved into a form transmissible from human to human with the
potential of causing a pandemic, according to recent news reports.
Outbreaks occurred in 1957 and 1968, possibly from flu that jumped from
birds to humans and then changed so it could move directly from human to human,
said Dr. Richard Slemons, Ohio State University professor of veterinary
Slemons noted that the poultry industry is so vertically integrated that
even if Europe refuses to accept imports of American poultry for a week the
cost can be millions of dollars.
"Maryland and Delaware did a great job last year" containing the disease,
Slemons said. "We're due for another pandemic," Slemons said. "The only thing
that's predictable is that (the viruses are) unpredictable."
There has been no recorded case of human to human transmission of avian flu
strains in North America, said Llelwyn Grant, Centers for Disease Control
2005 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of