Suspected Avian Flu Halts Live Poultry Sales In Virginia For July

Tuesday, July 10th 2007, 11:59 am
By: News On 6

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) _ Virginia banned all live poultry sales and shows for the rest of July following the discovery of suspected avian flu antibodies in a flock of 54,000 turkeys on a Shenandoah County farm.

State veterinarian Richard Wilkes issued an order canceling all sales Monday, Elaine Lidholm, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said Tuesday. The ban remains in effect until July 30.

Both low and the more severe high pathogenicity avian influenza pose no danger to humans, Lidholm said.

``The danger is really to the industry,'' she said.

Wilkes also issued a ban in 17 counties on the transfer and application of poultry litter, a combination of floor shavings and manure that is either processed into fertilizer or spread directly on fields.

Neighboring West Virginia on Monday suspended all poultry shows and sales for the next 30 days. Shenandoah County borders West Virginia.

The antibodies discovered in the turkey flock match those in a mild strain of avian influenza, but a U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory is conducting tests to determine the exact cause.

Lidholm said it appears to be a low pathogenicity avian influenza strain, which is not as contagious as the high pathogenicity strains more likely to kill poultry.

The turkeys carrying the antibodies showed no signs of illness, Lidholm said. The antibodies were discovered during routine testing prior to slaughter last week.

The suspect flock will be destroyed, possibly beginning Tuesday night, Lidholm said, because there is a danger that a low pathogenicity strain can convert to high pathogenicity avian flu.

The farm has been placed under quarantine, and can only receive essential supplies such as feed or emergency veterinary visits, she said.

Nearly 5 million birds were destroyed in 2002 when Virginia had a full-fledged avian flu outbreak, according to Lidholm. The poultry industry in nearby Rockingham County is among the largest in the nation, according to the Virginia Poultry Federation.