08/05 - Statewide quarantine on traveling birds lifted - East Valley Tribune: News

08/05 - Statewide quarantine on traveling birds lifted

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Posted: Tuesday, August 5, 2003 9:47 am | Updated: 1:11 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Ostriches can return to their festival in Chandler, falcons can take wing over the Renaissance Fair near Gold Canyon and owls can be restored to the annual Feathered Friends Festival in Gilbert.

Federal and state officials lifted a statewide quarantine on traveling birds Monday, declaring an end to the threat from the Exotic Newcastle disease. Gov. Janet Napolitano announced a state of emergency in early February after the disease was found in chickens on an Indian reservation in western Arizona.

Exotic Newcastle poses no threat to humans, but is among the most infectious poultry diseases. The disease was first detected at a California egg-laying farm in October and then spread to Nevada, Arizona and Texas. Hundreds of thousands of chickens were slaughtered in California in the effort to contain outbreaks.

Arizona adopted a quarantine in three counties, and included a statewide traveling ban for exotic fowl because Exotic Newcastle can infect any bird. As a result, several East Valley festivals had to deal with the loss of their traditional feathered attractions this year.

In March, the Chandler Chamber of Commerce brought in other exotic animals to replace the missing namesake from the Ostrich Festival. The absence of the world's tallest bird didn't affect attendance at the city's signature event.

But the festival celebrates Chandler's early days when the farming community was the ostrich-plume capital of the country, so city officials were glad to hear Monday that the birds can return.

"With so many people from other places that have relocated here, I think it helps to share the history," said Chandler spokeswoman Nachie Marquez. "It's certainly something that is unique."

The state's primary concern was protecting a $62 million poultry industry anchored by Glendale-based Hickman's Egg Ranch, which delivers eggs to nearly every supermarket chain in the state.

"If they would have had even one outbreak or just one sick animal, it probably would have destroyed their inventory," said Rae Chornenky, spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture.

Hickman's has adopted stricter workplace procedures to prevent the Newcastle virus from reaching any of its 3 million chickens, said Clint Hickman, co-owner and sales manager.

All employees must change into hospital scrubs and clean footwear when they report to work. Trucks and trailers entering the egg-laying farms must receive a bath of disinfectants.

The new procedures will stay in place despite the end of the quarantine, Hickman said.

"We're always going to be concerned about it now," he said. "We've got our employees in a habit now that's good for animal husbandry."

Company representatives hope lifting the quarantine also will lead to dropping a ban on egg and chicken feed exports to Mexico, Hickman said.

The quarantine remains in place for birds and eggs in six California counties, including Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside.

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