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Delmarva Farms Vaccinating Chickens

February 14, 2006

SALISBURY, Md. (AP) _ A highly contagious respiratory disease that is harmless to humans has hit about 20 chicken farms along the Eastern Shore, forcing some farms to begin vaccinating their birds.

The infection, called laryngotracheitis or LT, can decimate poultry farms but doesn’t spread to humans, unlike avian influenza, which has infected more than 150 people worldwide.

About 20 farms in Delaware have reported the disease, which causes chickens to cough and release discharge from their eyes. Infected chickens are still safe to eat, officials said.

``It’s strictly a disease of chickens,″ said Dr. Edwin Odor, Delaware’s acting state veterinarian. ``It appears from time to time.″

LT can kill 500 birds a day in a flock, said Dr. G. Donald Ritter, director of health services for Mountaire Farms, a poultry company based in Selbyville, Del.

Delmarva _ the peninsula containing Delaware and parts of Maryland and Virginia _ is home to more than 5,400 broiler houses. It was not immediately clear how many were vaccinating their chickens.

Ritter sent a letter to Mountaire chicken growers earlier this month saying chicken farmers are vaccinating for LT in a 36-mile control area spanning Maryland and Delaware. Some farmers for Perdue Farms Inc. said they are also vaccinating chickens.

The letter did not identify infected farms but said all farms within 6 miles of those that test positive for LT will be barred from transporting and spreading litter.

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