LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Bird flu cases continue to be a concern for Michigan farmers but researchers with Michigan State University are hopeful that cases will decline in the summer. Experts are now giving a closer look at how they track cases in the state’s only approved lab.
MSU’s Veterinary Diagnostic Lab is part of a team of 56 partners across the country that helps the federal government track bird flu cases. Officials said as this current bird-flu outbreak made its way from the east coast, they already had a game plan to address it.
“We’re here performing testing for companion animals, livestock, zoo animals but in the back of our minds, we’re always training and always preparing to be here in the case of a widespread outbreak,” said Director Kim Dodd.
Hidden among the fields outside of Michigan State University’s campus, researchers stand ready to process the next batch of samples that could contain traces of bird flu. Dodd said as the state’s only official lab to test this type of virus, it has been all hands on deck. Even Dodd got qualified in the USDA procedure to test for bird flu. Annabel Wise works in the lab and said the team has been preparing for another bird flu outbreak since 2015.
“The work can get stressful. Many days in the stretch of a week we get all these foreign animal disease investigations coming in but we are all, you know, ready. There are many, many moving parts here,” said Dr. Wise.
She added that tracking the state’s case rate is a team effort made up of experts creating samples from dead birds, to an IT group uploading data in real-time. Professor of virology Dr. Roger Maes said testing can get tricky.
“The follow up to the initial test is to define if this is the highly pathogenic avian influenza because there are many, many influenza strains, especially in waterfowl,” he said.
Researchers said Michigan has not seen any commercial flock outbreaks so far like several other states have.
They expect bird flu cases in the mitten state to decrease soon.
“I believe that the outbreaks are currently occurring in Canada, which means the birds are up there at this point in time. So, the incidents are probably going to be on the decrees,” said Mick Fulton an avian diseases professor. “Probably around the middle of June it’ll die down at least in the United States.”
Right now, lab team members work after hours and on some weekends to keep up with samples. Dr. Wise said the new workflow will last as long as the outbreak does.