Texas chickens infected with bird flu

AUSTIN, Texas, February 24, 2004 (ENS): An entire flock of chickens was destroyed in Gonzales County, Texas Monday after a "highly pathogenic" strain of bird flu was identified in the flock. The farm was [placed under quarantine following the discovery of this strain of flu, the first case in the United States in 20 years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said.

All of the 6,600 birds in the flock have been destroyed, and testing for the H5N2 strain is being done on flocks within a 10 mile radius of the infected flock's farm in the central part of the state.

The H5N2 strain is a more serious type than that found in flocks in four Eastern states, said Ron DeHaven, USDA's chief veterinarian, but there is no evidence to date that the strain can be harmful to human health.

"The H5 strain can be high or low pathogenic, and the clinical signs observed at the outset of this outbreak suggested that the disease was low path avian influenza," said DeHaven. "However, further testing by our National Veterinary Services laboratory in Ames, Iowa, determined that this strain is highly pathogenic avian influenza."

The USDA is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to forestall any human health impacts from this outbreak. There is no evidence to date of any human health implications of this outbreak.

USDA and the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) have started an epidemiological investigation with the intention of determining the source of the infection. The agencies will do surveillance testing within a 10 mile radius of the infected property.

The infected birds were among flocks raised to be sold to live poultry markets in Houston, said industry officials.

Bird flu can be spread through bird-to-bird contact and by manure, equipment, vehicles, egg containers and clothing and shoes that have had contract with the virus, the USDA said.

"We urge everyone who has poultry to practice good biosecurity measures and report any sick birds or death losses to either TAHC or USDA," said DeHaven. "Proper biosecurity, including wearing protective clothing and disinfecting any equipment before leaving a facility, will ensure this disease does not spread."

Over the past two weeks poultry flocks in Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey have been found to be ill with a variety of strains of bird flu.

More information on avian influenzais online at: http://www.aphis.usda.gov


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