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State May Ban Wooden Crates To Control Disease

February 16, 1986

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) _ State agriculture officials battling a month-old outbreak of avian influenza among poultry flocks in four Eastern states say wooden crates used to ship birds may be to blame, and they expect to ban their use.

The officials said in recent interviews that they believe the crates carried the virus from New York through Pennsylvania and to a chicken farm in southeastern Massachusetts, where 5,000 birds were destroyed last month to keep the disease from spreading.

″We are guardedly optimistic that we will not find more″ infected birds in the state, which has a $6 million poultry industry, said Mabel Owen, director of the state Division of Animal Health of the Department of Food and Agriculture.

Ms. Owen said wooden crates may have carried the disease because ″they are porous and quite difficult to clean.″

Interstate poultry shipments have not been banned, but poultry auctions have been shut down in Massachusetts because it is difficult to control and track the distribution of birds from them, Ms. Owen said.

Connecticut Agriculture Commissioner Kenneth B. Andersen announced Thursday that exposed chickens had been found at a few markets in western Connecticut, including a storefront market in Bridgeport.

Andersen said the state secured a voluntary quarantine of chicken farms in Brooklyn and West Willington as a result of a ″slight potential for exposure″ because their owners had visited the market in Bridgeport. The incidents were considered isolated and not direct threats to the state’s $111.2 million poultry industry.

Pennsylvania and Delaware also have banned poultry auctions, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. To prevent flocks from becoming infected, North Carolina, Virginia and New Hampshire have restricted poultry shipments.

Brazil, Canada, Japan and Venezuela have banned shipments of poultry and poultry products from the United States.

This is the first outbreak of the virus since 1983-84, when nearly 17 million birds were destroyed. The disease, which doesn’t affect humans, gradually weakens and kills chickens and other fowl.

The flu surfaced in Pennsylvania last month and spread to Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York’s Long Island. The government has destroyed about 133,000 broilers and 168,000 laying hens that had been exposed in those states.

Animal health officials have linked the cases to A-Cee Poultry of Queens, N.Y., a wholesale market which distributes to 40 retailers, said spokesman Howard Clark of the New York Department of Agriculture.

″But A-Cee Poultry is a victim, not a culprit,″ said Executive Director John Hoffman of the Pennsylvania Poultry Federation, which represents a majority of producers in that state.

A-Cee has disinfected its terminal and purchased plastic cages, which are easier to clean, Clark said. ″But a lot of their old crates may be floating around,″ Hoffman said.

So far the flu has had little effect on the market, unlike the 1983-84 outbreak when ″a number of laying flocks were destroyed, creating an egg shortage in the Northeast market,″ said Gerald Truitt of Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., which has 4,000 members in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

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