United Poultry Concerns
PO Box 150 • Machipongo, VA 23405-0150


19 April 2007
Contact: Karen Davis 757-678-7875

United Poultry Concerns Clarifies H5N2 Pathogenicity, Number of Turkeys Killed

On April 18, 2007, United Poultry Concerns (UPC) issued a news release, “Turkeys with Avian Flu Killed with Firefighting Foam in West Virginia” (http://www.upc-online.org/nr/041807wvturkeys.html). The UPC release cited an article posted on the Internet (http://www.lancasterfarming.com/node/521) about the use of firefighting foam to exterminate what looked to be 15,000 turkeys on a farm confirmed with the H5N2 avian influenza virus at the end of March. The release said the birds were infected with “the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus, H5N2.” The release should have said – and here are the corrections – that 25,000 turkeys were exterminated when tests showed the farm to be infected with the “potentially highly pathogenic avian influenza virus, H5N2.”

That is, H5N2, while not invariably highly pathogenic, has like all H5 viruses the potential to become highly pathogenic, particularly in high-density poultry operations, according to experts including University of Ottawa virologist Dr. Earl Brown, a specialist in influenza virus evolution (http://www.upc-online.org/poultry_diseases/53106flu.html).

For example, “an outbreak of the H5N2 virus some 20 years ago in the United States became highly pathogenic, causing greater than 90 percent mortality among infected poultry flocks,” wrote Dan Murphy in “The Vocal Point,” on www.meatingplace.com, July 29, 2005. He went on to cite a “recent report from the World Health Organization [which noted that] even the less dangerous strains of bird flu viruses, after circulating for just a short time within a poultry flock, can now mutate into highly pathogenic agents, causing ‘sudden onset, severe illness and rapid death, with a mortality that can approach 100 percent.’”

According to Dr. John Clifford (USDA-APHIS), the H5N2 virus that appeared on the West Virginia turkey farm last month was “consistent with low pathogenic strains of avian influenza.” The office told UPC today that this finding has been confirmed. (http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/content/2007/04/lpai.shtml). The inhumane firefighting foam extermination of the 25,000 turkeys was taxpayer funded.

According to the UN Food & Agriculture Organization, “to date, all highly pathogenic AI viruses that cause generalized rather than respiratory disease belong to either the H5 or H7 subtypes. For example, the classical fowl plague virus is H7N7 and the virus responsible for the major epidemic in the eastern United States in 1983-84 was H5N2. However, not all H5 and H7 viruses are virulent for poultry” (“Animal Healthspecial Report: Avian Influenza - Disease Card”).

The avian flu virus confirmed as transmittable to humans is H5N1. According to Dan Murphy (cited above), “bird flu – like BSE [bovine spongiform encephalopathy] – is an animal disease that combines virulent animal-to-animal infectivity (think: foot-and-mouth disease) with the deadly ability to spread to humans with equally devastating mortality.”

For more information about avian influenza (bird flu), visit http://www.birdflufowlplay.com and www.upc-online.org/poultry_diseases/.

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