Second Case of Bird Flu in Delaware

Tests confirmed avian flu (search) on a second central Delaware farm, a surprise that creates a "serious situation" for the region's poultry industry, state agriculture officials announced Tuesday.

The flu strain is different from the one that has spread to the human population in Asia, killing at least 19, and experts say there was no threat to human health. But the discovery was sure to hurt efforts to lift bans by foreign countries on imports of U.S. poultry that were instituted in the past week.

The chicken house was not one of 20 tested in a two-mile radius of the farm where the first flock tested positive last week, but was found in a commercial flock of roaster-type chickens in northern Sussex County, at least five miles away, according to a state agriculture department news release.

Tests on 20 chicken houses within two miles of the first flock were negative, the release said.

"This development is completely unexpected given the precautions we took, the investigation we made and the industry's expectations of this disease's behavior," Agriculture Secretary Michael T. Scuse said in the release.

"We will be taking immediate actions to contain this disease, but this is now a serious situation for the Delmarva poultry industry." Delmarva refers to Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

In response, all sales of live poultry in Delaware, all sales or auctions of farm equipment and all farmer- and grower-related meetings have been canceled, the state agriculture department announced.

Poultry farms in Caroline County, Md., which lies along the Delaware state line, will be tested this week as a precaution, Maryland Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Sue duPont said. Farmers alsoare cutting out visits between farms and canceling meetings, she said.

The disease was first found on a farm in Delaware's southern Kent County operated by an independent grower who sold to the live bird market in New York City. State officials had immediately ordered the slaughter of 12,000 birds and began testing flocks within the two-mile radius of the infected site.

Even before the announcement about the second flock, China on Tuesday joined Poland, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea in banning U.S. poultry imports because of the previous discovery. Hong Kong had banned the import of live birds and poultry from Delaware only.

Russia, the single largest foreign market for U.S. poultry, had said Monday it was temporarily banning the import of most poultry products from Delaware.

Exports account for about 20 percent of the U.S. poultry industry.

On Monday, Vietnamese health officials confirmed two more cases of the more virulent strain of bird flu in people, including one man who died, bringing the country's death toll to 14 and Asia's overall death toll to 19. More than 50 million chickens have been slaughtered in Asia to stem the spread of the virus.

Bird flu has not jumped to people anywhere outside Vietnam and Thailand in the current outbreak. Health officials have traced most of those cases directly to contact with sick birds.