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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Flock-Killing Planned if Bird Flu Found

Flock-Killing Planned if Bird Flu Found
WASHINGTON, Apr. 19, 2006

(AP) If deadly bird flu shows up in U.S. chickens or turkeys, the government will kill off any flocks suspected of having the virus even before tests are completed, officials said Wednesday.

At greater risk are free-ranging chickens and small, backyard flocks _ as many as 60,000 in Los Angeles alone.

If bird flu arrives, "quick detection will be key to quickly containing it and eradicating it," said Ron DeHaven, head of the Agriculture Department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Most of America's chickens come from big commercial farms that keep birds indoors and are well-protected against the spread of disease. Yet there are many flocks in people's backyards _ officials are unsure how many _ and free-range flocks that are outdoors and could mix with wild birds or their droppings.

Officials encourage those producers to bring flocks inside and watch for signs of flu _ dead birds; lack of appetite; purple wattles, combs and legs; coughing or sneezing; diarrhea _ and report them immediately to state or federal authorities.

"We can't afford for this virus to be smoldering six months before we find it," DeHaven said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Owners will want to report sick birds because they will be paid fair market value for destroyed flocks, DeHaven said. Stopping the spread of bird flu has been more difficult in countries that can't afford to compensate farmers, he added.

The virulent strain of bird flu spreading through Asia, Europe and Africa has killed 110 people and hundreds of millions of birds. Scientists fear it could mutate into a form that spreads easily among people, sparking a worldwide epidemic.

Authorities say it's likely to arrive in the United States this year. The government is testing more wild birds than usual, as many as 100,000 in Alaska and other migratory pathways. Chicken and turkey companies are testing nearly every flock for the virus.

"If the virus does arrive in the U.S., we think we'll find it quickly," he said. "We don't think that it would ever make it into the food chain."

Regardless, poultry is safe to eat if people cook it to 165 degrees and follow basic kitchen safety rules, DeHaven said.

If the virus turns up in commercial chickens or turkeys, the government plans to quarantine the farm, restrict bird movements within about two miles and boost testing within about six miles.

If screening tests suggest a potentially virulent flu virus is present, and the birds show signs of flu, they'll be killed immediately, even before more detailed testing is finished, DeHaven said. Flocks would be confined and killed with carbon dioxide gas, essentially putting them to sleep, DeHaven said. Authorities refer to this as "depopulation."

Disposal of dead birds is tricky, because they still may carry the virus. In the past, large numbers of birds have been buried, put in landfills or incinerated, but those things can be expensive and cause bureaucratic hassles.

Now, the industry intends to compost the carcasses inside houses where birds are killed.

To be composted, carcasses are layered with mulch, hosed down and left alone, inside, for four to six weeks, said Richard Lobb, spokesman for the National Chicken Council, an industry group. Intense heat generated by composting is more than enough to kill the virus, Lobb said.

The government has vaccines to protect poultry from the virus but is reluctant to use them because vaccinated birds can still spread the virus without appearing sick, said John Clifford, the department's chief veterinarian. Vaccines could be used in flocks surrounding the area of an outbreak, he said.


On the Net:

Agriculture Department:

Biosecurity for the birds campaign:

Okay, this plan seems to be against the small holder with healthy pastured poultry. I noticed that all outdoor flocks will be executed even before a test says whether or not they are actually infected while the factory farms will just be put under quarantine. it os nice that growers will be reimbursed for their dead birds at fair market value. I sell my birds for $4 a pound (and believe me they are worth every penny) and I even have a paper trail that says this has been the case for the past 5 years but I will be willing to bet if the feds come for my birds I will get nothing approaching what I get for a dressed whole bird and will more likely get the fair market value of a factory farmed bird. Likely around 30¢ a pound (which would not even cover for the feed they get over 7 weeks much less our labor or the cost of the chicks)

1 comment:

Freedom Lab said...

factory flocks better protected? i wonder who has the stronger immune system? thousands of sickly birds all crapping on eachother in a tiny room or birds with lots of fresh air and good food? just more propaganda for the theme that consolidation, dependency and control is good, decentralization and self sufficiency is can we find this theme any where else in govt policy?

its hard work to get the REAL info isnt it? i may have luddite tendencies at times, but thank goodness for small farmers with blogs.