The bird flu epidemic that started in the USA early last year has turned into the largest epidemic in the country’s history, affecting more than 58 million birds raised in 47 states as well as birds in the wild.
It seems likely that it has already spread to mammals such as mink, fox, raccoon and bear.
Fears are growing that the virus that causes it, known as H5N1, may mutate and begin to spread more easily among people.
Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the risk of a pandemic among humans is low.
Animal vaccination decision and objections
Officials at the federal Department of Agriculture, responsible for the health of livestock, have announced that they have begun testing potential poultry vaccines and are in talks with industry leaders about a large-scale avian influenza vaccination program for poultry.
Farm birds are already vaccinated against infectious poultry diseases such as poultry pox.
But the idea is still debated as a bird flu vaccination program could introduce trade restrictions that could destroy the nearly $6 billion poultry export industry.
Bird health expert at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Carol Cardona said the fear of trade bans is a major obstacle to mass vaccination of poultry.
White House officials, who have not been named, say vaccinating poultry is not the only step they are considering.
More urgently, poultry farms will be encouraged to be protected through biosecurity measures such as enhanced disinfection procedures.