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USAHA News Alert Summaries - October 4, 2004
Provided by
The American Meat Goat Association

1. Alaska hopes to bring in cattle from Canada [edited]
2. Japan, US to hold talks over resumption of US beef imports: report
3. Bird Flu Kills Nine-Year-Old Thai Girl, 31st Victim [edited]
4. Nothing "alarming" found in CWD audit
5. 'Mystery island' is no threat to us [edited]
6. Shipment of U.S. cattle to Cuba
7. Progress in West Nile fight
8. Seafood firms get 6 month reprieve on labeling rules
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1. Alaska hopes to bring in cattle from Canada [edited]
Associated Press
October 1, 2004

GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alberta -- An Alaska farm group is working on a proposal to try to get its state border opened to live Canadian cattle.

"We have historically purchased our animals from Canada," said Jane Hamilton, executive director of the Alaska Farm Bureau.

"Canada is our closest neighbor. There is a lot less trauma and stress in transporting an animal from Canada instead of going all the way to the Lower 48."

The [border] closure means Alaska has to import any replacement cattle from the Lower 48. But since the most practical way to get live cattle to Alaska is overland through Canada, the state is unable to bring them in from either Canada or the rest of the United States.

Hamilton said Alaska's unique situation means it may be more likely to get an exemption from the ban.

"We only import 300 to 400 animals per year. So we're thinking that with the small number of livestock that would be transported, (and) the fact that there really is only one major road into Alaska, that it can be really well controlled, and we can keep track of the Canadian cows that come in," she said.

Hamilton said Alaska producers are getting desperate.

'the dairymen are unable to get any replacement heifers, and so their production is going down. And we haven't got any bulls in for our cattlemen to improve their genetics."

While Alaska producers could bring in cattle by barge from the Lower 48, it would add about $800 to the cost of each animal, she said.

Hamilton said the plan includes testing every live cow that entered the state. Currently the state tests only suspect animals for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the scientific name for mad cow disease.

However, the commitment to extra testing is making it more difficult to complete the pilot program, and Hamilton is unsure when it will be launched, even if approved.

'to put the animal ID program into place, to find the funds to have every animal tested -- this is why it's taking longer than we had hoped."

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2. Japan, US to hold talks over resumption of US beef imports: report
Channel News Asia
October 1, 2004

TOKYO : Japan and the United States will hold working-level talks this month over resuming US beef imports currently banned because of fears over mad cow disease, a news report said on Friday.

Before the talks at the end of the month, the Japanese government will consult a panel of experts on allowing meat from US cattle 20 months old or younger even if they have not been tested for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, the Sankei Shimbun newspaper said.

Japanese farm ministry officials said nothing had been decided on whether or when to hold the next round of bilateral talks.

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3. Bird Flu Kills Nine-Year-Old Thai Girl, 31st Victim [edited]
By Panarat Thepgumpanat
October 4, 2004

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Asia's bird flu epidemic, which experts fear could spawn a human pandemic, has claimed its 31st victim, a nine-year-old Thai girl who had contact with infected chickens at home.

She died on Sunday night, soon after being confirmed as having the H5N1 bird flu virus nearly a month after falling ill, Health Ministry spokeswoman Nitaya Chanruang Mahabhol told Reuters.

'the girl was in poor condition before being sent to the hospital," Nitaya said on Monday of the 11th Thai to die of bird flu since the virus swept through much of Asia early this year. It has also killed 20 Vietnamese.

The government, spurred into a frenzy of action by Thailand's first probable human-to-human transmission of the virus last week, is determined no one else will linger untested and untreated for so long.

Volunteers would inspect every village in the country and put anyone showing flu-like symptoms on the government's bird flu watch list, Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan told reporters.

So far, 85 patients in 22 of Thailand's 76 provinces are waiting for H5N1 test results after being sent to hospital with flu-like symptoms, a ministry statement said.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra gave his government until the end of October to eliminate the virus, promising heads would roll if the drive failed.

Experts say that task is nearly impossible given the resilience of a virus that has survived the slaughter of tens of millions of poultry.

What they fear most is that the H5N1 virus could infect an animal also able to host a human flu virus -- most likely a pig -- and then mutate and set off a pandemic among a human population with no resistance to the mutated virus.

In 1918, just such a pandemic killed an estimated 20 million people around the world.

No evidence has yet emerged of such a development, although experts are now sure that the H5N1 virus can be passed from human to human if there is prolonged and very close contact.

Dutch researchers reported last month that domestic cats can get the avian influenza virus, which means pets are at risk of catching and spreading the disease.

However, a report that a Thai dog had also caught it proved to be an error probably caused by a mislabeled sample, the Health Ministry said.

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4. Nothing "alarming" found in CWD audit
By Linda Gallagher
Michigan Outdoor News
October 1, 2004

Michigan deer hunters should not expect to see any last-minute changes in this year's deer hunting regulations or quotas as a result of findings from the DNR's audit of more than 500 domestic cervid operations.

The statewide audit, which the DNR began in June, was expected to be completed by Oct. 1, in time to implement additional antlerless license quotas or other measures deemed critical to protect the health of Michigan's wild deer and elk, a move DNR Director Becky Humphries had said would be undertaken if necessary.

But despite an approximate 33-percent noncompliance rate of state rules regarding cervid facilities by Michigan's domestic deer and elk farmers, no glaring red flags have been revealed by the audits, according to Doug Reeves, the DNR's current acting Wildlife Division chief.

At least, not yet. "With approximately 30 farms left to be audited (as of Sept. 23), we haventt found any animals with apparent signs of CWD or anything like that," Reeves said. "We do have some concerns, but, so far, nothing of an alarming nature that could be considered a huge threat to the health of our wild deer and elk."

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5. 'Mystery island' is no threat to us [edited]
By Dan Bradway - Opinion
October 3, 2004

Dan Bradway is an associate in molecular diagnostics at Washington State University, where he manages a laboratory section of the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.

'This history of secrecy has led to all kinds of wild conspiracy and accident theories.'Nelson DeMille wrote a swashbuckling detective novel called "Plum Island" in 1998. The novel paints a pretty accurate picture of the local history and the physical facilities of the Plum Island Animal Disease Research Center. However, I had to laugh when the fearless macho detective (who's not afraid of bullets) nearly dies of fright at the mere thought of all those "deadly bugs" in the lab that might kill us all.

As a visiting scientist, I worked with those bugs inside the biosafety level 3 lab, wearing a thin cotton scrub suit, but protected by a lab coat, gloves and a laminar flow hood, which keeps infectious agents contained by a column of air and a high efficiency particulate air filter. I am definitely more afraid of guns.

Since its creation in 1951, the Plum Island Animal Disease Research Center hasn't always done the best job in communicating with the public, and the lab has had its problems. Private contract workers who maintained the facility were involved in a contentious strike in 2002, and some minor sabotage occurred. The lab has had brief power failures. A security audit by the General Accounting Office found problems with controlled access to pathogens and deficiencies in background checks of scientists.

The Department of Homeland Security took over the island in June 2003. Even with this new administration, two incidents were reported earlier this year when foot-and-mouth virus infected some animals accidentally. The virus never left the containment area, but Plum Island officials didn't immediately notify outside agencies about the problem, either.

The world has also changed dramatically since 9/11. The Department of Homeland Security not only administers Plum Island, but also controls select agent usage in all labs around the country. This is a significant upgrade from the past, when some labs kept dangerous agents in unlocked freezers without controlled access.

Today, access is tightly controlled by multilayered locks, inventory systems, federal inspections and oversight, and FBI background checks on everyone with access to dangerous "select agents."

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6. Shipment of U.S. cattle to Cuba
By Michael Braga
The Herald Tribune
October 2, 2004

PORT MANATEE -- The on-again, off-again shipment of Florida beef cattle to Cuba is on again.

The Cuban government originally agreed to purchase 250 head of cattle in November and increased that total to 300 head four months later.

The shipment, set to leave from Port Manatee in April, was indefinitely postponed after a single case of mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) was discovered in Washington.

Cuba, like other countries, was concerned that U.S. cattle infected with the brain-wasting disease could infect their herds.

After recently meeting with officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cuban authorities are now convinced that American ranchers have curtailed the problem enough to again schedule the shipment.

"The Cubans have certified that America is BSE free," said John Parke Wright IV, the Naples businessman who negotiated the cattle sale. "That's something that the Japanese, Chinese and Mexicans have not done yet."

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7. Progress in West Nile fight
By Esther Landhuis
San Jose Mercury News
Octrober 1, 2004

Researchers are making headway developing West Nile virus treatments and vaccines, but questions remain as to whether these remedies to the emerging and somewhat capricious malady will be effective enough to make it to market while demand exists.

At least one vaccine and two treatments are undergoing human clinical trials, but none will be available until 2007 at the earliest.

Meanwhile, the seasonal epidemics are costing the United States at least $140 million annually, according to a recent CDC study that tracked medical costs, productivity losses and government agency expenses due to the mosquito-borne virus. In September, a 50-year-old San Jose man became the first Bay Area resident reported sick with the virus.

Infected individuals are thought to be immune for life, according to Carol Glaser, a viral disease expert with the state's Department of Health Services. ``That's why a vaccine would probably work well.''

A horse vaccine for West Nile virus has been available for several years, but developers of a human version face a litany of additional requirements to earn approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

To date, the only vaccine candidate in human trials is produced by Acambis, a British company with U.S. headquarters in Cambridge, Mass. A single shot of this vaccine -- created by swapping parts of the closely related yellow fever vaccine with proteins from the West Nile virus -- seems to offer long-term protection in monkeys, mice and hamsters.

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8. Seafood firms get 6 month reprieve on labeling rules
By Ira Dreyfuss
Associated Press
October 1, 2004

WASHINGTON - Food companies fighting Congress' directive to start telling consumers whether the fish they buy was farm-raised or caught won a six-month reprieve Thursday from the Agriculture Department.

New regulations to implement a provision in the 2002 farm bill requiring fresh and frozen fish to carry labels specifying their origin were issued Thursday, but the government said grocery stores won't have to comply until April. The labels also will have to specify what country the seafood came from.

Food companies and trade groups had complained processors would have to throw out stocks of fish if they could not sell them before the labeling requirement took effect.

The wait will let the industry sell off its existing product, the Agriculture Department said. Officials said they also plan to delay for a year strict enforcement of the new requirements while commercial fishermen, fish farmers, importers, distributors and retailers are trained on how to comply.

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Paul Rodgers
Deputy Director of Policy
American Sheep Industry Association
phone: (304) 647-9981
fax: (304) 647-4778


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