Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad on July 28 announced he is extending the State of Disaster Emergency for Iowa, in response to this year's avian flu outbreak, through Aug. 30, 2015. This is the third extension he has made to the original disaster proclamation, which was issued in the spring. The current disaster proclamation would have expired on July 31, 2015, without an extension from the governor.
What the proclamation of disaster emergency extension means is explained at the end of this article. First, here are some key points made at this week's "bird flu conference" in Des Moines.
At the poultry industry summit held in Des Moines July 28 & 29 to discuss how to prepare for the possibility of the next round of bird flu, both U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Iowa Gov. Branstad spoke. Vilsack said producers hit by avian flu this past spring could begin bringing chickens and turkeys back into those depopulated, cleaned and disinfected facilities by fall.
"Our hope is by the end of the summer we're in position to get folks back into business across all the states that were impacted by avian flu this year," said Vilsack. That's "assuming we don't have a re-emergence, and assuming everything goes well."
Vilsack, along with Branstad, spoke to about 300 poultry producers and state and federal officials at the industry conference. The meeting focused on lessons learned from the outbreak this spring that resulted in nearly 50 million laying hens and turkeys being destroyed across the country. Iowa, hardest hit by the disease, lost about 31.5 million birds.
Preparing to prevent another potential outbreak of bird flu
"We are doing everything we can to prevent a bird flu outbreak from occurring again and to mitigate its expansion," said Vilsack. USDA is expecting to provide $700 million to help producers cover part of their losses and to help humanely euthanize chickens and turkeys and clean up contaminated poultry facilities.
Vilsack said wild geese and ducks introduce the virus, but it is spread on worker's boots and clothes, equipment and by water. It's also believed to be spread by the air, dust and small birds that get into poultry facilities. "Biosecurity is the best bet," says Vilsack. "But obviously the best biosecurity job may not be good enough, and there may be a re-emergence this fall." The virus prefers cooler weather to survive. Since the weather warmed up in June, Iowa hasn't had a case of bird flu reported since mid-June.
New vaccine looks good in tests to protect laying hens
At the same time poultry producers are working to clean up, disinfect and reopen their facilities, USDA is encouraging the testing and introduction of a new vaccine. It's been licensed to one company. It is 100% effective against the deadly virus in chickens, said Vilsack. Officials are unsure how effective it will be in protecting turkeys.
So, regarding Iowa Gov. Branstad's extension of the bird flu disaster emergence to the end of August, what does that do? Here's the information from the governor's office.
Proclamation of disaster emergency for state of Iowa does the following:
1. Activates the disaster response and recovery aspect of the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department's (HSEMD) Iowa Emergency Response Plan.
2. Authorizes the use and deployment of all available state resources, supplies, equipment, and materials as are deemed reasonably necessary by the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and Iowa HSEMD in order to do the following:
•Track and monitor instances of confirmed highly pathogenic avian influenza throughout the state of Iowa and the country
•Establish importation restrictions and prohibitions in respect to animals suspected of suffering from this disease
• Rapidly detect any presumptive or confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza within Iowa's borders
• Contain the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza within our state through depopulation, disinfections, and disposal of livestock carcasses
• Engage in detection activities, contact tracking, and other investigatory work to stop the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza within our state
• Eliminate the disease in those disaster counties where it has been found and lessen the risk of this disease spreading to our state as a whole
3. Temporarily authorizes the Iowa HSEMD, the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT), the Iowa Department of Public Safety (DPS), the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), other state agencies, and local law enforcement agencies and private contractors employed by the same to remove and/or dispose of live animals and animal carcasses on publicly or privately owned land when those live animals and/or carcasses threaten public health or safety.
4. Authorizes the Iowa HSEMD, the Iowa DOT, the Iowa DPS, the Iowa DNR, IDPH, other state agencies, and local law enforcement agencies to implement stop movement and stop loading restrictions and other control zone measures as are reasonably deemed necessary, including establishing buffer zones, checkpoints, and cleaning and disinfecting operations at checkpoints and borders surrounding any quarantine areas established by the IDALS or at any other location in the state of Iowa, in order to stop the spread of this contagious disease.
5. Authorizes state agencies to assist the IDALS in disinfection, depopulation, and livestock carcass disposal efforts.
6. Temporarily waives restrictions to allow for the timely and efficient disposal of poultry carcasses.
7. Temporarily suspends the regulatory provisions pertaining to hours of service for commercial vehicle drivers hauling poultry carcasses infected with or exposed to highly pathogenic avian influenza or while hauling loads otherwise related to the response to this disaster during its duration, subject to certain conditions outlined in the disaster proclamation.