US may impose tougher curbs to contain bird flu in Arkansas
By Tom Polansek
CHICAGO, March 16 (Reuters) - U.S. authorities are considering imposing tougher restrictions in Arkansas to contain a virulent strain of avian flu in the heart of America's poultry region in a bid to minimize international trade disruptions and contain the virus.
The H5N2 flu discovered in Arkansas last week is the state's first case of a strain that causes massive internal hemorrhaging in poultry, can kill nearly every bird in an infected flock within 48 hours, and is prone to mutate. Such strains are sometimes called "chicken Ebola."
In response, Arkansas is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create new rules for commercial poultry producers and owners of backyard flocks alike, Reuters has learned.
The rules will spell out how often poultry within a quarantine zone must test negative for bird flu before the quarantine can be lifted, Brandon Doss, Arkansas' assistant state veterinarian, said. Until the quarantine is lifted, no poultry within 10 km (6 miles) around the farm that was infected with bird flu can move in or out of the area.
The rules being revised were previously used to deal with less deadly strains of the bird flu in Arkansas.
U.S. authorities are seeking to reassure major buyers of U.S. chicken, such as Mexico, which imposed new import restrictions last week. The export market for companies like Tyson Foods Inc and JBS SA unit Pilgrim's Pride Corp is worth $5.7 billion annually.
Already, Arkansas has established a quarantine zone around a farm infected with H5N2 and ordered a 24-hour guard to monitor trucks and people entering and leaving the site and block unauthorized access.
"In all likelihood it will be our largest response effort to date," Doss said. Arkansas has 42 commercial operations and at least two dozen backyard flocks to monitor within its quarantine zone. Continuación...