On the Channel 2 News tonight

Bird organization talks about possible bird flu in Alaska
Saturday, March 18, 2006 - by Joy Mapaye

Anchorage, Alaska - The State of Alaska has released new recommendations for bird owners, just in case of the bird flu. The plan comes as other organizations try to prepare for a possible pandemic.

One of those organizations is the Bird Treatment and Learning Center. Every year the center takes care of about 1,000 wild birds.

Saturday afternoon, volunteers met to talk about the possibility of bird flu in Alaska and to go over preparation plans, just in case a highly pathogenic H5N1 strain is found in Alaska.

Cindy Palmatier says no one knows the specific threat level, but says the current thought process is that Alaska will likely see a case of bird flu this summer. She says it's predicted Alaska will be the first place in the U.S. to see H5N1 because birds migrate to the state from all over the world.

More than 25 volunteers took part in Saturday's meeting.

Palmatier says the time to prepare is now. She says, depending on the weather, we could see migratory birds start coming to Alaska in April.

“Just trying to be prepared for whatever is thrown at us and that i’s why we developed the three-stage plan, to cover however bad it may get,” said Palmatier (left), the Director of Avian Care at Bird Treatment Learning Center.

We want to be ready for it because we could be on the front stage of everything that’s going to be happening in the United States, said D.V.M. Todd Palmatier (below), who is also a volunteer at the Bird Treatment and Learning Center.

Palmatier says it's also important to take all of this into context. She says H5N1 is a possibility, not a probability.

So far, the state veterinarian says there have been no cases of the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain in Alaska.

Health officials in the state maintain there is no reason for alarm, but preparation does help.

Other organizations are preparing also. The Alaska Zoo's veterinarian, Dr. Riley Wilson, says they're looking into plans right now. He says they don't have anything specific on paper, but will take very aggressive efforts, should there be an outbreak. Wilson says they're working closely with the state vet and with other agencies to come up with a plan.

Pictures missing thanks to blogger.