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Officials Clear Southland of Poultry Virus

September 17, 2003|Karen Robinson-Jacobs | Times Staff Writer

State and federal agriculture officials said Tuesday that they have eradicated an avian virus known as exotic Newcastle disease and lifted the remaining quarantine that restricted shipments of poultry in Southern California.

"We're confident that we're free," said Paul Ugstadt, a U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarian for California and Nevada. "We've done enough testing in the quarantined area to make sure that we're free."

In August, the quarantine was lifted in most of the state after authorities determined that the disease -- an often fatal, flu-like malady easily spread among birds but not to humans -- was largely under control. Tuesday's action lifted restrictions in parts of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura and Kern counties that were still under the ban.

No California birds have been found with the virus since May. The end of the quarantine also means that show birds can travel to exhibitions, which also had been banned.

The disease was first detected in a backyard flock last fall, and by winter the virus had spread to commercial poultry operations in Southern California. To wipe out the disease, eight counties were put under quarantine and more than 3 million birds were destroyed, mostly at commercial egg farms.

The disease never got a toehold in Central California, home to the bulk of the state's $3-billion poultry industry.

The federal government spent $160 million to fight the outbreak in California, including compensating the owners of birds that had to be destroyed.

The state Department of Food and Agriculture has asked poultry farmers and private owners to continue monitoring their flocks for any signs of illness.

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