Ed Yeates Reporting
Call it practicing for the big ball game, but in this case, it's much more serious. Practice is what teams from multiple government agencies and private businesses did today to prepare for an outbreak of the bird flu.
It's called a tabletop exercise. These kinds of drills are used to prepare for the real thing, should it happen.
Birds coming into Utah could bring one of two kinds of Avian Influenza. Low Path kills some birds, but seldom infects people. But High Path avian flu kills all birds and could mutate into humans. Today's hypothetical exercise had high path infection hitting a poultry operation.
Leonard Blackham, Commissioner, Utah State Dept of Agriculture & Food: "We'll go through the process of the initial suspect and how to proceed, whether it was the case or not. THen proceeding to a full scale outbreak of avian influenza in poultry. Not a pandemic, but simply a bird flu."
Government, farm, ranch and poultry groups sat at various tables, learning how to deal with the crisis and how to work with each other.
State Veterinarian Mike Marshall says those on the front line, working directly with birds and poultry, will probably be the first to detect the sickness. They're also among the most vulnerable for infection, should that happen.
Mike Marshall, DVM, State Veterinarian: "Those that are involved with the fluff, the feathers, the dust, flapping wings and dander that comes from the bird. IF there is H5N1 high path avian influenza organism, they are the ones who could be susceptible."
Today's exercise is one of many throughout the country, polishing and refining individual state plans for a pandemic, just in case.