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Deadly Bird Disease Whipped in Texas; Last Quarantine Lifted

by 5m Editor
15 August 2003, at 12:00am

TEXAS - State and federal quarantines restricting bird and poultry movement have been released in Socorro, in El Paso County, officially bringing to a close the Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) outbreak in Texas that was first detected April 9, 2003.

Deadly Bird Disease Whipped in Texas; Last Quarantine Lifted

State and federal quarantines restricting bird and poultry movement have been released in Socorro, in El Paso County, officially bringing to a close the Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) outbreak in Texas that was first detected April 9, 2003. This spring, nearly 800 flocks in El Paso and surrounding counties were tested, and about 2,000 diseased or exposed backyard birds were euthanized to stop the spread of the END virus, which does not affect human health or food quality, but is deadly to birds.

“In April and May, quarantines restricted bird movement within and from El Paso and Hudspeth Counties in Texas, and from Dona Anna, Luna and Otero Counties in New Mexico, while teams from the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), New Mexico Livestock Board and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) worked to wipe out the disease,” said Dr. Bob Hillman, Texas state veterinarian and executive director for the TAHC, the state’s livestock and poultry health regulatory agency. “By June 5, confident that the disease had been wiped out, the state and federal quarantines were reduced to a few blocks within Socorro, where the infection had been detected. As of Wednesday, August 13, this last quarantine was released, and poultry and birds can be moved without restriction.”

Dr. Hillman said that, even though END is officially wiped out in Texas, it could still affect the state’s ability to trade internationally, at least for a while. “END is a foreign animal disease, and although it struck only backyard birds in Texas and no commercial operations, some 13 countries either placed additional restrictions on our poultry products or banned the products until we could prove Texas was disease-free,” he pointed out. “Our trading partners have the prerogative to decide when they’ll again accept Texas products. Some countries may accept poultry within a few weeks; others may enforce a longer waiting period.”

“We have fared well, however, considering the damage END can do,” commented Dr. Hillman. He pointed out that in southern California, more than three hundred veterinarians and animal health inspectors continue to battle an END outbreak which has affected hundreds of backyard flocks and 22 commercial poultry farms. Almost four million birds have been euthanized to stop the disease from spreading, and during the height of the outbreak, more than 1,700 animal health staff ‘drafted’ from across the country to fight the disease.”

“The USDA reports that the END outbreak in California is under control and is in the last stages of being eradicated,” he said. “Furthermore, state and federal quarantines have been lifted in Arizona and Nevada, where small END outbreaks occurred last winter.”

“Fighting a disease like END takes cooperation from state and federal staff, other agencies, bird and poultry owners, and the public,” noted Dr. Hillman. “An eradication effort is like fighting a forest fire. If someone yells ‘fire’ when there’s just a few sparks, it can be stamped out quickly. The same idea applies to disease. Call your veterinarian or us when unusual disease signs first appear, and the eradication time, staffing power and cost will be minimal, compared to an outbreak that’s out of control.”

“Check your birds recently for signs of disease, such as gasping, coughing, diarrhea or paralysis,” said Dr. Hillman. “Make a call to your private veterinarian or to one of the regulatory veterinary agencies.”

Dr. Hillman referred bird owners in Texas to the TAHC’s 24-hour hotline at 1-800-550-8242 or to the USDA’s Veterinary Services office in Austin at 512-916-5552. In New Mexico, bird owners may call the New Mexico Livestock Board at 505-841-6161 or the USDA at 505-761-3160.

“Don’t be concerned about yelling ‘fire’ if birds are sick, or if there’s unusual death loss,” he urged. “Don’t wait until there’s a raging disease inferno.”

Source: Texas Animal Health Commission - 13th August

5m Editor