- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2004

A second case of avian influenza was found yesterday morning at a commercial farm in northern Sussex County, Delaware’s largest chicken-producing jurisdiction.

The H7-type strain, which is not harmful to humans and is not the same as the highly pathogenic bird flu that is crippling the Asian poultry industry, was discovered at the commercial farm. The farm is at least five miles from the noncommercial chicken farm in southern Kent County that reported Friday the state’s first case of bird flu this year.

The Sussex County farm had 73,800 birds 4 weeks old in three chicken houses. Those roaster-style birds, raised for an undisclosed processor in the area, were destroyed on site yesterday afternoon.

The new case has effectively shut down trade of Delaware chicken, sales and auctions of farm equipment, fertilizing with poultry manure in areas north of Route 50, and farmer meetings in the state for now, said Delaware Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse.

The agency is now testing 75 farms within six miles of the infected farms, which will remain under quarantine for at least 30 days.

“This development is completely unexpected given the precautions we took, the investigation we made and the industry’s expectations of this disease’s behavior,” Mr. Scuse said in a statement released yesterday.

The source of the new infection and its exact strain have not been identified. While the low-pathogenic strain poses a serious threat to poultry flocks, it is not the same as the Asianavian influenza that has killed 18 persons in Thailand and Vietnam and required the destruction of more than 100 million birds.

The World Health Organization yesterday backtracked on assertions that the Asian bird flu could not spread from person to person, saying it would need more time to determine if mutated strains could evolve. So far, no known human-to-human transmission has occurred.

Tests results Monday revealed that 12 Delaware farms within a two-mile radius of the first infected farm were negative for the H7N2 strain.

Despite that news, China yesterday joined Poland, Japan, Singapore and South Korea in banning U.S. poultry amid fears of the disease. Russia, the nation’s largest chicken customer, had banned chicken imports from Delaware.

U.S. Agriculture Department economist David Harvey said he expected the trade bans to lower the price of frozen leg cuts, which make up roughly two-thirds of U.S. poultry exports. Exports account for about 15 percent of the nation’s broiler chicken industry.

Leg quarters were priced at 36.3 cents per pound last week, up 69 percent from 21.5 cents a year ago. The forecast drop in price will depend on how long countries impose their bans and if the ban is nationwide or limited to Delaware’s poultry, Mr. Harvey said.

“Delaware chicken is no small matter, but it only makes up 3 percent of the total U.S. production. A ban on Delaware chicken won’t greatly impact total prices,” he said.

Delaware ranked 10th in broiler production in the nation, producing 257 million birds in 2002 and bringing in $494 million for the state, according to Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., a trade association.

Maryland and Virginia’s Agriculture departments yesterdayadvised chicken farmers to limit their trips and practice extra sanitary measures.

to prevent the spread of the disease.

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