A four-day meeting is soon to be held between Chinese health officials, Government authorities and wildlife experts in Chicago regarding the management of a potential bird flu outbreak. Response measures to be implemented in zoos would also be discussed in detail. This move has been decided following fears of outbreak of bird flu in the United States.
The meeting would be coordinated by officials of the Lincoln Park Zoo, according to press reports by Kelly McGrath, official spokeswoman. Representatives from other similar organizations such as American Zoo and Aquarium Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of the Interior are hoped to attend the meeting.
She further added that the meeting would be very similar to the one conducted in 2001 held at Chicago, to restrict the spread of West Nile virus. The zoo is additionally expected to take a lead on surveillance measures as well.
Samples of blood were withdrawn from flamingoes, chickens, raptors and waterfowl periodically to evaluate the presence of West Nile virus, if any. The trapped mosquitoes were also not spared from testing during the above-mentioned period. "The difference is we didn't know West Nile was coming until it was here," McGrath said. "We're ahead of the game" regarding avian flu.
Bird flu has claimed more than 70 valuable lives, especially in Thailand and Vietnam since 2003. Almost all casualties have been reported in individuals who had close contact with infected birds. No case of human-to-human transmission has been recorded so far. However it is feared that if the virus mutates into a more virulent form, it could lead to a pandemic.