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OFFICIALS DESTROY BIRDS IN KERN CO. PRESENCE OF FATAL DISEASE FOUND.

Byline: Staff and Wire Services

MOJAVE - State and federal agricultural officials killed more than 300 chickens and other birds at three properties outside Mojave after the first discovery of exotic Newcastle disease in Kern County.

The discovery comes as agricultural officials continue to try to keep the highly contagious, fatal disease quarantined in Southern California and away from San Joaquin Valley chicken ranches.

``This was still on this side of the Tehachapis,'' said Larry Cooper, a state Department of Food and Agriculture spokesman. ``That area is very close to L.A. County and some of the infestations we had there.''

Fighting the outbreak of a disease that has the potential to wipe out California chicken and turkey farms, state and federal agricultural officials since last fall have been testing birds and destroying infected flocks around the state - including in Littlerock, Lake Los Angeles and elsewhere in the Antelope Valley.

Exotic Newcastle disease is considered almost 100 percent fatal among chickens. The disease does not affect humans, and state agricultural officials say it does not make chicken meat or eggs unsafe to eat.

In the Mojave area, the disease was discovered in a flock of game fowl after a man reported several sick fowl to an exotic Newcastle disease task force.

Officials destroyed the man's 127 birds, as well as birds on two nearby properties. The birds included pheasants, roosters and chickens.

It's unknown how the birds near Mojave became infected, but officials noted the disease's presence in the Los Angeles County portion of the Antelope Valley. Signs at the Kern County line warn people not to bring in chickens or other birds.

Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Riverside, Orange, San Diego and Imperial counties were placed under quarantine after the disease was discovered in a backyard flock in October in the San Gabriel Valley. More than 3 million birds have been slaughtered since then.

Officials don't know how the disease came into California. Cooper said there is a possibility the disease came from Mexico, which had an outbreak in 2000.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 10, 2003
Words:341
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