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State declares emergency poultry quarantine in southeast Washington to contain avian flu

01/08/2015 12:24 EST | Updated 03/10/2015 05:59 EDT
KENNEWICK, Wash. - The Washington Agriculture Department declared an emergency quarantine for domestic poultry and eggs in the southeast part of the state to contain the highly contagious avian flu.

The quarantine issued Wednesday restricts the movement of chickens, turkeys and other birds out of that zone. It covers an area within 20 miles of two Benton County locations where backyard flocks of chickens, turkeys and ducks were found to have the disease.

This particular strain of the disease isn't dangerous to people, but it's deadly to birds. Officials want to keep it out of commercial operations.

The virus has not been found in commercial poultry in the U.S., so it's OK to buy chicken, turkey, eggs and other poultry products from grocery stores, the Tri-City Herald reported (http://bit.ly/1zWPnwQ).

No human cases with these viruses have been detected in the U.S., Canada or elsewhere. And U.S. agriculture officials have said poultry, poultry products and wild birds are safe to eat even if they carry the disease as look as the items are properly handled and cooked to the proper temperature.

The quarantine is expected to last for about eight months. It covers most of Richland, part of Kennewick and extends across the Columbia River to include part of Franklin County.

Exemptions from the quarantine are possible if businesses can show their establishments have strong biosecurity measures.

More than 700 birds in Benton County have died or been euthanized. The disease has been found in two backyard flocks in the county, which included domestic waterfowl with access to the outdoors. Wild waterfowl have been known to carry the virus.

Federal agricultural officials plan to increase the amount of testing of poultry and other domestic birds in the area. The commercial industry also has a robust avian influenza testing program, state officials said.

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Information from: Tri-City Herald, http://www.tri-cityherald.com

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