UW-Madison working to bring bird flu vaccine to market amid outbreaks

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- If you've been paying more for eggs recently, you have the bird flu to thank, according to egg producers.

UW-Madison scientists say they are fighting back.

Across the nation, tens of thousands of birds have had to be put down in recent weeks as the bird flu ravages flocks, and farmers say while it's already making eggs expensive, it won't stop there.

UW-Madison scientists say this is an issue that comes and goes, which is why they're looking to bring a vaccine for the birds to market.

"Knock on wood, we've been doing okay in Wisconsin. We've had two outbreaks here in Wisconsin," said UW-Madison Poultry Specialist Ron Kean.

Kean said one major egg operation and one backyard flock have been infected.

Nick Levendoski, the state's poultry and egg industry association president, said everyone is holding their breath.

"Kind of sitting on the edge of our seat here, kind of wondering when the next announcement is going to come. It's certainly gotten to the point," said Levendoski.

There could be light at the end of the tunnel.

UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine Professor Adel Talaat said three years of work is starting to pay off.

"Now we have some promising results showing that this vaccine can protect against multiple kinds of avian influenza," said Talaat.

He said the vaccine they've been working on, designed to fight back against the virus as it evolves, is very effective.

"It could mean almost 100% of protection," said Talaat. "In our experimental trials we got 100% protection on birds that were vaccinated."

Now, they're looking to partner with farmers to test it on a commercial level as they seek USDA approval, and they're looking for a way to bring it to consumers.

"We're working to have some partners or investors that are interested in making this vaccine a reality," said Talaat.

Experts say for now, if you care for birds, keep them in the coop away from wild, and especially migrating, birds.

They say to avoid swapping animals with other people right now, and wash your hands after handling any animals.

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