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Ban on out-of-state flocks issued, but no new avian flu outbreaks reported

By JACK WEATHERLY

Dr. Jim Watson, state veterinarian with the Mississippi Board of Animal Health, said the state is implementing new measures at poultry sales and exhibitions because of the outbreaks of avian flu in the Southeast.

“No poultry — including chickens, ducks, turkeys, quail, pheasants and pea fowl– are allowed from Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky or Georgia because of their current outbreaks,” Watson said. “Only Mississippi birds that are part of the [National Poultry Improvement Plan, or NPIP] program and have paperwork to prove it are allowed to be shown or sold at public events.”

Watson said birds from states other than those four Southeastern states must have proof they are from an NPIP-Avian Influenza Monitored Program or have a negative avian influenza test.

Dr. Tom Tabler, poultry science professor at Mississippi State University, said on Tuesday that there have been no new outbreaks in any of those states or Mississippi.

“For the last week, things have been pretty quiet,” Tabler said. “Some of it is probably the weather, because the hotter, the less likely there is going to be anything else.” The virus is not particularly hardy, Tabler said.

The virus, which manifests itself in several strains, cannot be contracted by humans, but it poses a threat to the $2.9 billion Mississippi poultry industry.

The state’s industry avoided an outbreak in 2015 that led to the destruction of 50 million birds in the Midwest. The virus struck the egg industry particularly hard, though Jackson-based Cal-Maine Foods, was not affected directly.

However, the 2015 outbreak has had a lasting effect on markets. Cal-Maine blamed the after effects on its drop of 32 percent in net sales in its most recent quarter.

With the current outbreak, processors in Mississippi have battened down the hatches by taking extraordinary biosecurity steps.

There are six poultry processors in the state: Laurel-based Sanderson Farms, third-largest producer in the United States; Tyson Foods, based in Springdale, Ark., and the largest producer in the country; Koch Foods; Peco Foods, Wayne Farms and Mar-Jac Poultry.

The Southern outbreak was discovered initially in Tennessee flocks that had to be destroyed. They were infected high-pathogenic variety, which is the deadliest. Other flocks in contiguous states have reported instances of the low-pathogenic variety, which can mutate into the deadlier version.

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