Nitz chairs committee to prepare in case of bird flu

Published 8:08 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2006

By Staff
LANSING - With avian bird flu possibly someday arriving in the United States, legislators are addressing how to be prepared. State Rep. Neal Nitz Tuesday chaired a joint House agriculture and health policy committee meeting in Lansing to investigate the state's preparedness strategies in the event of a pandemic reaching Michigan.
Douglas S. O'Brien of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, testified at today's proceedings along with directors from the Michigan Department of Community Health, the Michigan Department of Agriculture, the Department of Natural Resources and Michigan State Veterinarians. The organizations provided joint testimonies illustrating their team effort in communicating and providing updated emergency strategies if an emergency were to occur.
Testimonies given assured legislators and Michigan residents that the avian bird flu is only spread from bird to human and has no reports of the disease mutating from human to human. Their concern, however, is that eventually the influenza may mutate and the human immune system will not be ready to combat the virus. For this reason, both local and federal departments continue to staff workers at neighborhood emergency care centers and additional facilities where residents can go for help in an emergency situation.
One area of concern was addressed today that had been brought up in past meetings about small flock producers or hobbyists and what they need to do to prepare for bird flu. Michigan State University experts attended the meeting and announced they would be hosting meetings throughout the state to educate these groups on preparation strategies.
Officials were mostly positive about their efforts, but addressed some concerns on potential weaknesses that may deter them in the future.
Future funding and manpower to continue restructuring efforts are factors that may eventually prevent local departments from proceeding with their preparedness strategies.
For more information, Nitz can be contacted through his Web site at; calling his office toll free 1-888-373-0078; by mail at P.O. Box 30014, Lansing, MI 48909-7514; or by e-mail at