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Faculty Member Named ‘Master Trainer’ for Avian-Influenza Response

Steven R. ParkerAlready a national leader in helping American Indian tribes prepare for agricultural terrorism, a Pennsylvania College of Technology faculty member recently was certified as a Master Trainer in bracing for a response to avian influenza commonly characterized as “bird flu.”

Steven R. Parker, an instructor of environmental technology in the college’s School of Natural Resources Management, recently received U.S. Department of Homeland Security certification as a Master Trainer in AI response. After a year of successful trainings with several tribes, Parker was asked by DHS and the AgTerror Preparedness Center to continue nationally as the Master Trainer in AgTerror Counter-Terrorism Preparedness training and in the new Avian Influenza Preparedness training.

The disease is caused by a virus (H5N1) that infects domestic poultry, wild birds such as quail, cranes, geese and ducks and pet birds like parrots. Many species of those wild birds, especially geese and ducks, migrate around Williamsport along a major aerial path referred to as the “North American Flyway.”

“Each year, there is a bird-flu season just as there is for humans, and, as with people, some forms of the flu are worse than others,” Parker explained. “Avian influenza viruses have had a devastating impact on the poultry industry globally. The highly pathogenic virus is associated with very high morbidity and mortality rates in poultry, up to 100 percent.”

This virulent strain emerged in Asia in 2003 and has been detected in Africa and parts of Europe in poultry, as well as in 60 wild-bird species worldwide.

Pandemic flu is different: a human-influenza outbreak of global proportions from a new flu virus to which people have little or no immunity and for which the need for vaccine is likely to exceed supply. The disease spreads easily from person to person, causes serious illness and infects large numbers of people around the world in a short amount of time.

“Should the H5N1 virus or other similar influenza viruses adapt to allow easy human-to-human transmission, a pandemic could ensue,” Parker said. “Since February 2004, medical and public-health personnel have been watching closely to find any such cases. At this time, it is uncertain whether the currently circulating H5N1 virus will lead to a global disease outbreak.”

The avian influenza training topics were biosecurity, personal protective equipment requirements, euthanasia and disposal, and cleaning and disinfection of contaminated areas. Additional training subjects included pandemic preparations, with emphasis on community and business pandemic contingency planning; and preparedness planning for individuals and families. Future plans include developing AI training components specifically for child care and Head Start programs, if there is interest.

“The Avian Influenza Preparedness Master Training was extremely interesting, but eye-opening, too,” Parker said. “Given information that the H5N1 virus has mutated once to an easily human-to-human transmitted virus in Indochina killing all seven members of an isolated family really hits home that it could easily happen again, but next time in a populated area.

“The causalities from such a pandemic, in the United States alone, could be staggering. Prevention and, if necessary, containment are key. There is not a substitute for preparedness.”

For more information about the School of Natural Resources Management, visit online or call (570) 320-8038. For general information about Penn College, visit on the Web , e-mail or call toll-free (800) 367-9222.

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