Though there have not been any U.S. cases of the strain of avian flu that has killed more than 140 people in China this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s head veterinarian says the agency is making preparations to combat the deadly virus in case it reaches North America.
The USDA’s Dr. Jack Shere stresses that it's impossible to predict how far a particular bird flu strain may travel or mutate. In the meantime, however, scientists are on alert.
"We look at the 21 biggest poultry states and we test wild birds throughout the year in those states to make sure that we have an early warning notice if this virus is changed, if we got a new virus. That we have we have an awareness and we can pick it up," Shere says.
Recent confirmed cases of avian flu in Tennessee and Alabama are from a different strain of bird flu than the strain circulating in China. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the health risk to people is low from strains recently found in U.S. poultry.
An outbreak of avian flu in 2015 killed 48 million birds. Approximately 31 million were from commercial poultry flocks in Iowa.