A&M Studying Bird Flu Potential

Down the gravel paths of Agronomy Road, you'll find Texas A&M at the forefront of examining the bird flu and its potential spread.

"There's several experts throughout the world working on this," said John El-Attrache with the A&M College of Vet Medicine. "We're just one of the factions that are working on this."

El-Attrache has studied the disease for a decade, and he and his fellow Aggie researchers have been keeping a close eye on the Asian outbreak of avian influenza.

"It's a steep learning curve, what's going on in Southeast Asia," El-Attrache said. "Fortunately, it's happening in Southeast Asia and not in this country."

But A&M's studies, examined closely by the Department of Homeland Security, show the potential of the disease arriving soon. Migratory water fowl have migration paths that criss-cross across the globe. Birds from Asia cross with North American birds, with the potential for the disease to be passed.

"It would be at sometime next year where the possibility of this virus coming to the shores of North America and the US would happen," El-Attrache said.

But chickens are the main headline makers. In Asia, they are typically raised on village farms, with prolonged contact with humans. That's how it apparently spread from poultry to people. That's not the case in the US, and strict guidelines are in place for the food supply.

"Biosecurity measures are always in place for these large flocks of domestic poultry," said El-Attrache, "so it keeps infectious agents such as influenza out of the flocks.

"It's gone directly from chickens to humans. It has not easily spread from human to human like normal human flu does. So if that happens in Southeast Asia, then it's just a plane ride away."

An idea that has A&M's finest working to prevent a pandemic.

Researchers also say that in the unlikely event the disease were to get into the food supply, standard cooking methods would prevent the disease anyway.


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