Report: Bush Administration Lacks Plan to Test, Monitor Bird Flu

The Bush administration lacks a comprehensive plan for testing and monitoring bird flu in commercial poultry, a federal audit says.

The industry is testing every flock for bird flu, but the tests are voluntary and there is no method for reporting findings to the government, the Agriculture Department's inspector general said Tuesday.

As a result, the department does not know the extent of surveillance being done and is not gathering consistent data that would indicate whether the deadly Asian strain of bird flu is present or how widespread it is.

In response to the criticism, the department provided a strategy for assembling such a plan.

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The inspector general's recommendations "have only furthered our plans to prepare and respond to any avian influenza outbreak," said department spokeswoman Karen Eggert.

The report got a negative response from Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, the Senate Agriculture Committee's senior Democrat.

"The federal government continues to push the responsibility of finding and responding to a possible outbreak of avian influenza on states," Harkin said. "As a result, USDA does not have a comprehensive national plan for surveillance and monitoring of poultry flocks and states lack adequate federal resources to respond to potential avian influenza outbreaks."