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The Congressional Research Service’s Report for Congress says, “Controlling avian flu in poultry is seen as the best way to prevent a human pandemic from developing, by reducing the number of animal hosts in which the virus may evolve..”

The Office of Science & Technology says, “If undertaken in a serious manner with a good strategy, vaccination can be a very useful tool in containing an outbreak of an infectious disease.”

The NBvH, a group of small poultry holders in Holland, have sent a letter to the European Council demanding that they abandon their non-vaccination of industrial poultry policy. 40 European breeding and preservation organizations and 2 American organizations supported the letter. The new AI Directive allows preventive vaccination if the international situation is threatened.

A report by the Conservative MEP’s to the European Parliament on Avian Flu, recommends that “We want to see the development of cost-effective, multi-strain, orally administered vaccine to keep bird flu out of poultry so we can keep it out of humans.”

WHO, the World Health Organization, has stated that the best way to tackle bird flu is dealing with the source. Vaccination has proven to be an effective measure in the Asian countries that applied it.

Hong Kong started vaccinations after the 1997 outbreak and hasn’t had an occurrence of avian flu since. China is also vaccinating their birds as well as some other Asian countries.

Vietnam is in the process of trying to vaccinate all domestic animals in an effort to get rid of H5N1. The vaccine they are using comes from China and every bird has to get 2 shots; one, a month after the first.

In Ben Tre farmers are generally happy to have their animals vaccinated to prevent H5N1.

Robin Maynard of Soil Conservation says, “Defra should be considering stockpiling a vaccine which has been used in Hong Kong rather than considering the “medieval” practive of culling (slaughter).”

The International Wild Waterfowl association is in full support of the proposal by the Dutch Small Holders Asso. To the EU-Council with reference to the vaccination of waterfowl as a protection against Avian Influenza. Dr. Gary Riggs, DVM, said, “We are in the very early stages of developing a similar program in the U.S. This is a disease that CAN be better contained by strategic administration of a vaccination protocol.”

Dr. Ron Dehaven, the administrator with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, stated in a press conference, “I need to clarify that I said we do have vaccines. We have a vaccine bank. Now these are vaccines specifically for use in poultry. We have two types of vaccine -- an H5 and H7. I mentioned this, because we have concerns that a low path H5 or H7 virus might mutate and become highly pathogenic. So we have both H5 and H7 viruses, 40 million doses; 20 million are an H5 virus, and …..our colleagues have challenged (exposed to the virus) birds who have been vaccinated with that virus and found it to be very effective against this particular H5N1 virus in Asia. So we have that on hand, but that specifically is a vaccine only for use in birds.

In the state of Minnesota in the 80’s and early 90’s outbreaks of A1 in range-reared turkeys were common, and vaccines were used successfully as part of a controlled marketing program. More recently, several large layer flocks in Conneticut were vaccinated as an alternative to immediate depopulation after an H7N2 low pathogenic A1 outbreak. The vaccinated flocks were intensively monitored for virus shed using sentinel birds, bird testing, etc….With these successes, vaccination is being considered as a valuable tool in comprehensive A1 control strategies. (ars.usda.gov)

So, the point here is that there is a very viable vaccine for poultry available now, but a vaccine for humans can’t be developed until enough people have it to isolate the strain. The reasons given for not using the vaccine are: no country will import vaccinated birds, because it can’t be determined whether or not they test positive because of the vaccine or because they are sick. Not so. Italy has successfully tested a vaccine allowing discrimination between vaccinated and infected poultry. The strategy was adopted for the first time in the world in 2001 by Commission decision and allowed certain trade restrictions on the meat of vaccinated poultry to be lifted. Other arguments are that people won’t eat the vaccinated meat so grocery stores won’t carry it. That is totally bogus as (1) we eat meat from animals that have been vaccinated for many diseases every day, and (2) it is absolutely proven that virus is virtually destroyed by cooking so even if the meat of infected animals was sold, it would be perfectly safe. That also means, of course, that the only people who have contracted the virus have eaten, butchered or been in very close contact with a live or dead, UNCOOKED, infected birds.

Put simply, the government and the media have been scaring everyone to death with horror stories of a pandemic flu that the Office of Science and Technology says, “does not currently exist and at present there is low risk that it will occur at all.” They have been harping on the fact that there is no vaccine for humans against avian flu and even the vaccines we have, which might be effective, are in short supply. The rest of the world is slowly but surely departing from the ghastly and expensive solution of disposing of millions of birds when an incidence of the flu occurs, but we have been offered no hope at all and certainly no information on the effectiveness and availability of vaccines for poultry. Why?????? We didn’t combat rabies by killing every dog for miles around every time a mad raccoon was found. A vaccine was developed and given to the dogs….not the people!

Side affects of culling (nice word for killing) flocks can be far more disastrous than the economic burden of vaccination. In many cases, people hide their infected birds rather than admit there is an outbreak due to fear of having the flocks killed. Some out of love for their birds, but mainly because in many countries they get no compensation, lose their income and their food source. Starvation kills too, and that is a reality to be faced by many poor people who have lost their birds.

I won’t quote all the statements I have found….some by the very people quoted above….that state the only reason vaccinating the birds is not possible is because of the trade and economic considerations. But, that folks, is the sad truth of the situation. Avian flu can be stopped. It can’t be eradicated from the face of the earth, because it is carried by wild birds. However, the strain carried by the birds is a fairly harmless one. What appears to be happening is that once that strain infects domestic flocks, it mutates into the H5N1 strain that is deadly. In an interview with Europa.eu.int, the EU was asked , “Why is the Commission proposing new measures for avian influenza?” the answer…”legislation would establish compulsory surveillance and control measures against the low pathogenic avian influenza viruses that can be transmitted to domestic poultry from wild birds such as ducks and geese. The low pathogenic viruses cannot be eradicated from wild birds, but the infection of domestic poultry can be effectively controlled and virus mutation into the highly pathogenic forms can be prevented.” Once domestic flocks are vaccinated as a matter of course, there is NO chance of mutation and therefore NO chance of any human dying from the Avian Flu.

I have no political axe to grind here. I’ll be right up front and say I supported President Bush, but choosing to commit the mass murder of millions of animals, to unnecessarily panic the American people (some took down bird feeders!) and risk even one life, much less possibly thousands, for the sake of political clout and economic considerations, is indefensible. He has asked for 7.1 billion of our dollars for a National Strategy to Safeguard Against the Danger of Pandemic Influenza. On Nov. 1, 2005, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced a request for 91 million dollars in additional resources to safeguard the United States against highly transmissible forms of avian influenza. Of that $91 million, $10 million is earmarked for increasing the stockpile of animal vaccine by 40 million doses. Another 7.1 million is going for continued research and development of tools like vaccines, genome sequencing, environmental surveillance or bio-security measures (that means killing birds).

What is the rest of the $7.1 billion going? One place is the 50% of fair market value compensation that is given the poultry owners when their flocks are culled due to a low pathogenic outbreak (the harmless kind that COULD mutate), and the 100% compensation that is given for highly pathogenic outbreaks. Could that be why the big poultry houses haven’t been pushing for vaccination? They don’t really get hurt by having their flocks killed, but the loss and suffering endured by backyard flock, pet owners and breeders is incalculable. I have to wonder if that “fair market value” isn’t somewhat inflated on occasion. I'm quite sure a large portion of the funds will be diverted to drug companies to develop a human vaccine against the flu.  If the domestic birds are vaccinated, a human vaccine won't be necessary.  I'm sure we do need more vacilities to create vaccines if and when they are necessary, but should a red herring like Avian flu be used to get the funds? Of course, the drug companies will be delighted!

Once an economic and easily introduced vaccine that can be identified as vaccine, rather than infection, is developed (and they have most of it now!), all the emphasis politically should be on getting the world to agree to a comprehensive program that isn’t an emergency stop gap in the face of an immediate threat, but an ongoing, systematic requirement. It is generally recognized that the virus is spread far more by the transport of domestic birds than it is by wild birds. Therefore, the sensible solution would be to refuse trade of UNvaccinated birds rather than vaccinated birds.

No matter what else is done, it should be obvious that since there is a vaccine that even prevents the shedding of the virus, there is absolutely no reason why small flocks, pet birds, rare and endangered species, and breeding pairs should not have access to the vaccine at once. Since they can be tested and it can be determined that they are not infected, they would be totally protected and in no danger at all of being eliminated by USDA agents.


I think you will be very interested in a flyer put out by the Center for Bio-diversitet. Go to http://www.biodiverse.dk/english/flyer_english.htm






There has been a lot of hype by the media concerning the avian flu virus and the possibility of a pandemic…world wide outbreak. As of now and probably for a long time into the future, that is all it is ..HYPE. That exact word was used by Harry Danforth at the Agricultural Research Service, the USDA’s chief scientific agency. I talked to him for about 45 minutes today. Dr. David Swayne and other experts who developed the poultry vaccine for the H5N1 strain has been speaking against the hype and trying to infuse some truth, but the people who really know the facts are swimming upstream against the media. The hype has gotten so bad, the President even made a serious misstatement of fact in his speech today, Nov. 1. He said, “The avian flu virus is not easily transmitted from human to human.” Truth: The avian flu virus has not EVER transmitted from human to human and is not easily transmittable from bird to human. Avian flu is being used frighten the government into preparing for ANY pandemic that may happen, whether natural or man made..such as a biological terrorist attack. Without the facilities, personnel and resources to produce and provide vaccines for whatever may happen..key word “may”…there could be a major problem in the future. Obviously, it worked. The President is now pushing for funding. After Katrina, he must appear to be on top of any threat. The trouble is, the country has been panicked into believing they are in some immediate danger when they aren’t. If, due to this fear, AN avian flu outbreak is reported, I’m afraid some bureaucrats are going to immediately react without even knowing whether it is one of the many harmless avian flu viruses or H5N1. In that case, people could lose their livelihood or pets for no reason, many could suffer dreadful fear over a simple colds, and/or take other destructive measures and the media would be totally responsible by acting totally IRRESPONSIBLY. They have never reported the simple fact that you are far more likely to win the lottery or get struck by lightening than you are to catch avian flu even if there were an outbreak of H5N1. I have no ax to grind with President Bush, but I do think it is the responsibility of any President to get his facts straight and calm and reassure the public rather than adding fuel to the fire. Now to the facts…..


FACT: There are many strains of avian flu virus, most of which cause only mild illness in poultry. If you hear that there has been an avian flu outbreak, don’t assume that it is a deadly variety.

FACT: The strain of avian flu virus that is of concern and has been in the news is H5N1. It is highly contagious among chickens and turkeys and can be carried by ducks (domestic and/or wild). Ducks do not die of the virus, but can spread the contagion.

FACT: Poultry can be vaccinated against the virus. A 1997 outbreak in Hong Kong was contained by killing all the poultry, and is now controlled by vaccination and improved handling and sanitary regulations. 18 people contracted the virus in 1997 and 6 died. That was out of a population of almost 7 million. THERE HAVE BEEN NO FURTHER OUTBREAKS IN HONG KONG SINCE EVEN THOUGH THERE HAVE BEEN OUTBREAKS IN COUNTRIES ALL AROUND THEM.

FACT: Outbreaks of the H5N1 virus have occurred in many asian countries in 2003/4 and outbreaks have now been reported in a few European countries.

FACT: Human cases of the virus have occurred in Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Since 2003, there have been 121 reported cases resulting in 62 deaths. The combined population of those countries is approximately 370 million, most of whom live in rural areas in daily contact with all kinds of poultry. There are 60 million ducks in Vietnam alone and 2 billion domestic ducks in Asia.

FACT: Almost all (and possibly ALL..some facts are unknown) of the cases of humans contracting the virus from poultry have involved the human coming into contact with the blood of the diseased bird. In at least one case, the human drank the raw blood of an infected duck.


FACT: Does the virus spread easily from birds to humans? “No. Though more than 100 human cases have occurred in the recent outbreak, this is a small number compared with the huge number of birds affected and the numerous associated opportunities for exposure.” WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION

FACT: The most minimal sanitary precautions that we take for granted in this country are largely non-existent in the countries in which the virus has been contracted by humans.

FACT: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” and that isn’t just a quote. It is the truth. The fear that is being fueled by the media can stampede bureaucrats, politicians, and private citizens into taking totally unnecessary and cruel actions. For the first time, health officials required that we put up a sign at our site at the renaissance festival recommending that people clean their hands and provide a sanitary wash station. I have no argument with that, but since hundreds of people one after the other hug and kiss our birds, the greatest danger is the passing of germs from person to person, not catching an almost non-existent illness from the birds. When I hear that people are taking in their bird feeders when no reports of avian flu have even occurred in this country, and has never been reported in songbirds, I know the media has done a great injustice in causing a panic over nothing.

FACT: The World Health Organization and the CDC have cause for concern that avian flu could start a pandemic. The virus has taken years to mutate to the point that it can under extreme circumstances be transmitted from bird to human. It COULD mutate to a form that COULD be transmitted from person to person. It is their job to take note of that and prepare for all the possibilities. But there are too many unknowns at this juncture to predict anything definite. Will it ever mutate to that extent? If it does, how long will it take for it to happen? When it happens, how virulent or contagious will it be? NO ONE KNOWS. WHY the MEDIA has decided to slant all of their reporting to frighten the public with this boogieman, I have no idea, but that is what they are doing. I have heard and read that there have been thousands of deaths from avian flu…..then at the end of the reports, you learn that they are POULTRY deaths. They rarely bother to tell you that most of the deaths have been from slaughtering the birds so they won’t get it and then spread it…not because thousands had it.

FACT: At this point, the H5N1 virus is a major threat to the POULTRY populations in asian countries. Since it can spread through flocks rapidly, millions of birds are destroyed in efforts to contain it and those birds are vitally important as they are a primary source of protein and income. Most of these people are very poor and truly depend on the poultry to survive. Ducks are used extensively to weed rice paddies, etc. besides providing food and income. If we did have an outbreak here, it would be a very serious economic issue as millions of birds kept in huge poultry houses would have to killed in order to contain it. There is a Catch 22 here as the fact that the birds are kept in such close quarters means the virus will spread very quickly, but birds that are free ranging are subject to contracting the virus from wild birds.

FACT: We are all concerned about our pet ducks and geese, some backyard, some indoors. The chances of a few ducks catching the virus, and especially an indoor diapered duck/goose are infinitesimal…that has also been confirmed by ARS. However, the fear that they will be killed, because of blanket rule that “all birds in the area will be killed” is very real. We can only hope that we are not in an area where there is an outbreak or that there will be no outbreak at all….a very real possibility.

FACT: Obviously, since it has prevented any outbreaks in Hong Kong, there is a vaccine for poultry that will completely protect them from getting the virus. I looked into getting it for my “kids” since I am so “out there” in the public. I was told that even if I did get the vaccine (which is only sold in very large quantities), anyone checking the birds would take them anyway as they wouldn’t be able to tell if they were testing positive for a wild strain of the virus or testing positive because they had been vaccinated! Even if the birds were tested first, then vaccinated and were given a certificate to that affect from a vet, it would not be accepted. Sorry about that. The only advice I was given as to what to do in a worse case scenario (being in the area of an outbreak) was to keep a sharp eye on the news and get away from the area quickly.

MY ADVICE: I don’t think it will ever come to this, but if you were faced with someone coming to your door to take your ducks/geese, insist that your birds be tested BEFORE being killed and left alone if healthy. Make a lot of noise and get as much media involved as possible.

For a better perspective on all of this check out these sites:




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