Chickens test avian flu, Newcastle free

Tuesday, May 6th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) _ The two most contagious and deadly bird viruses have been ruled out as the cause of death for a flock of Muskogee County game chickens, agriculture officials say.

U.S. Department of Agriculture tests on the birds came back negative for Exotic Newcastle disease and avian influenza, Jack Carson, spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture, said Monday.

Fear that Exotic Newcastle had been found in eastern Oklahoma led Arkansas officials to institute temporary restrictions on chicken imports, transportation and public exhibition.

Millions of birds have been slaughtered since Exotic Newcastle was found in California in October. It has spread to Nevada, Arizona and Texas.

The scare came more than a week ago when gamefowl breeder Barry Newberry found 40 of his birds dead overnight and others sick.

Inspectors immediately placed the ailing flock under quarantine and then slaughtered 150 of his birds to prevent the spread of any disease.

State officials are still investigating to rule out other contagious poultry diseases.

``We still haven't gotten to the bottom of it,'' Carson said. ``The farm is still under quarantine until the USDA and state veterinarian release it.''

Newberry estimates his losses total $13,000.