- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2004

Chicken flu was discovered yesterday at a poultry farm in Texas, the fourth state to be afflicted with a mild strain of avian influenza that is not harmful to humans.

The Texas Animal Health Commission said a flock of chickens in Gonzales County, east of San Antonio, tested positive for the H5N2 strain, a less severe version of the bird flu that has devastated the Asian poultry industry and caused at least 22 deaths.

State officials quarantined the farm, which has sold to the live-birds market, and started testing farms within a five-mile radius of it. The 7,000 birds at the infected farm are expected to be destroyed on-site.

State veterinarian Bob Hillman said the bird flu was isolated and not related to the cases in Delaware found earlier this month. “We know this is a low-pathogenic strain that is not the same strain found in a number of countries in Asia or the other low-pathogenic strain in Delaware,” he said in a conference call yesterday.

Texas Agriculture Department spokeswoman Beverly Boyd stressed that the state expects at least one case of the bird flu each winter. “There is just more attention to the situation now because of the incidences in Asia,” she said.

The last outbreak of avian influenza in Texas was three years ago.

Mild strains of the bird flu have been found in two flocks in Delaware, one flock in Pennsylvania and four live poultry markets in New Jersey in the last month.

In Delaware, state officials declared an emergency in order to enforce dumping rules, which ban transporting chicken manure in the state until March 10.

“Due to reports of noncompliance by some poultry growers and clean-out personnel, we thought that the emergency order would help convey the gravity of the situation at hand,” Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse said in a statement.

The state, which has tested 220 farms with no infection detected, has stopped the movement of live birds that are not going to chicken-processing companies.

Commercial farms in the Delmarva Peninsula, the area between the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, are required to test their flocks 72 hours before shipping them to processing plants.

In Maryland, live-poultry sales and chicken manure movement continued to be suspended yesterday. Most farmers’ meetings, farm-equipment auctions and live chicken markets were canceled as well.

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