Bird flu found again at Texas farm

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PITTSBURG, Texas – Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation said routine blood tests indicate an avian influenza infection has been found in a 52-week-old commercial chicken breeder flock (which lays eggs for hatching) at a contract grower’s farm in northeast Texas.

There is little evidence of clinical signs of disease in the birds, which indicates the infection may be low-pathogenic avian influenza, according to the Texas Animal Health Commission.

Spread? The affected farm, located about six miles from the nearest commercial poultry farm, has been isolated and the flock has been destroyed on-site to prevent the potential spread of the disease, said O.B. Goolsby, president and chief operating officer of Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation.

“The flock has been destroyed humanely under the guidance of state veterinary officials,” he said.

Voluntary testing. Goolsby said the virus was discovered as part of voluntary testing procedures in cooperation with Texas Poultry Federation and State of Texas authorities.

“Our poultry testing in Texas is believed to be the most aggressive in the nation, with every breeder flock tested every 10 weeks,” Goolsby said.

“As a result of this diligence, we believe that the virus can be contained, particularly since this flock is so far from any other poultry farms.

“Accordingly, we believe this development will not have a material impact on net income.”

Subtype. After extensive testing by both state and federal officials – including the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa – the viral disease is believed to be the H7N3 subtype of avian influenza.

Due to incidences of avian influenza earlier this year in Gonzales, Texas, and in the northeastern United States, Pilgrim’s Pride had heightened its biosecurity efforts to minimize potential risks to its commercial flocks, Goolsby said.

Pilgrim’s Pride. Pilgrim’s Pride said the affected farm is in Hopkins County and is made up of two poultry houses with only 12,000 chickens each. The company said the farm represents less than 1/100 of 1 percent (.00009) of the total chicken flock owned by Pilgrim’s Pride.

Pilgrim’s Pride is the second largest poultry producer in the United States and Mexico, and the largest such firm in Puerto Rico.

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