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The New York Times reports that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is plotting a $12.5 million program that would expand testing for bird flu so that it covers virtually all the poultry raised in the US.

The program is waiting final Bush administration approval, and would focus on the most common varieties of avian flu, which is the poultry equivalent of a common cold.

Until recent outbreaks of avian flu in the US, the disease has been a low priority for regulators. However, the NYT reports, "even the low-path form can be economically devastating. Sick chickens do not grow as fast as healthy ones, so growers have to keep the birds longer and spend more on feed. States sometimes order flocks killed and have quarantined infected farms to prevent the virus from spreading. In addition, importing nations sometimes ban exports from low-path infected areas."
KC's View:
Not sure when and how it happened, but somehow sick chickens leapt ahead of mad cows in the public threat category.