September 17, 2003
US Contagious Poultry Disease Wiped Out
The United States has destroyed a highly contagious poultry disease which had spread to four states, killing more than 3 million birds, the Agriculture Department said on Tuesday.
The strain of this exotic Newcastle disease was first discovered in bird and poultry shipments in Southern California 11 months ago, and has since spread to Nevada, Arizona and Texas.
Although the virus is harmless to humans and does not affect the safe consumption of poultry and egg products, officials have nonetheless disposed of about 3.2 million infected chickens, mostly in California.
With sales of $3 billion annually, California's poultry industry was hit the hardest by the outbreak.
James Sumner, president of the U.S. Poultry and Egg Export Council, said the outbreak has cost the industry "many millions of dollars in trade" as big buyers, like Mexico and Russia refused shipments from infected regions.
These countries have yet to decide when they might reimport California poultry.
The disease, which was eradicated at a cost of $160 million, infected at least 22 commercial poultry farms, Californian officials said.
USDA on Tuesday removed federal quarantines on Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties.
But state and federal officials warned bird owners to continue taking precautions to prevent a relapse.
It is believed that the epidemic can be traced back to imported Mexican fighting cocks which are used for gambling or as pets.