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Major cull stymies Texas avian influenza outbreak

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Pittsburg, Texas -Animal health officials believe they have contained an outbreak of avian influenza (AI) resulting in a major cull of 24,000 birds from the second largest poultry producer in the United States, Pilgrim's Pride.

Pittsburg, Texas-Animal health officials believe they have contained an outbreak of avian influenza (AI) resulting in a major cull of 24,000 birds from the second largest poultry producer in the United States, Pilgrim's Pride.

The producer also saw its share price sour more than 3 percent after news that a breeder flock tested positive for AI.

Pilgrim's Pride destroyed about birds 24,000 birds May 27 after blood tests showed evidence of the H7N3 subtype of AI, according to the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC). Routine tests performed 10 weeks prior showed no evidence of the virus, and the birds had not been moved from the farm since then.

"These factors give us some reassurance that the disease might not have spread in the area," says Dr. Bob Hillman, Texas' state veterinarian and executive director for TAHC.

Though Hillman says the strain likely is a low-pathogenic AI, virus-isolation results were not yet available at press time. The incident is the second skirmish that Texas has fought against the virus this year; the first depopulated 6,600 birds in Gonzales County in February and March after a flock tested positive for the highly pathogenic H5N2 strain, which more closely resembled the severe AI that forced the destruction of more than 100 million birds in eight Asian countries since last December.

The source of the virus is still unknown, but Hillman says migratory waterfowl are a natural reservoir for AI.

Pilgrim's Pride generated 24,800 jobs and $2.6 billion in sales for 2003, and only Tyson Foods claims more market share.

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