The state this week completed its follow-up testing of chickens in Scott County and found no new evidence bird flu, a state official said.
“We feel real good where we’re at. We think we got it,” said Preston Scroggin, director of the state Livestock and Poultry Commission. “For all intents and purposes, we’re done with our testing.”
Scroggin said the follow-up testing ended late Monday (July 8) and early Tuesday on about 10 commercial chicken houses and 52 “backyard flocks,” with none turning up any evidence of bird flu.
From this point, federal and international officials will conduct another round of testing in three months to determine whether to lift the ban on Arkansas poultry that some countries and states have imposed, Scroggin said.
Arkansas poultry has been banned in Russia, Japan and Hong Kong — and in Mississippi and Georgia — after bird flu was discovered in June at a Scott County farm, officials said.
The country of Turkey also has joined the ban, Scroggin said Thursday (July 11).
In addition to those places banning Arkansas poultry, China had been in discussions with state officials also about a possible ban, but has decided to continue purchasing poultry from the state, Scroggin said.
The commission received confirmation of the positive test on June 18 and quarantined all poultry within a 6.2-mile radius of the Scott County chicken house facility where the infected bird was located, according to Gov. Mike Beebe’s office.
Scroggin said 18 chickens from that farm in Boles were found in June to have Avian Influenza, commonly known as bird flu. Those birds were killed, as were 9,000 other chickens that were destroyed in the area as a precaution. He said the bird flu incident was isolated to one farm.
Scroggin said testing on June 25 showed no new instances of bird flu.
The farm where bird flu was located provides breeder stock for Tyson Foods, which has a plant in Scott County within the quarantine radius, officials said. Tyson products were not shown to be contaminated by the incident, authorities said.
Scott County Health Unit Administrator, Darla Mortimore, said in June an infected bird and its droppings landed in a pond, contaminating water used by the chickens. The contamination was not caused by flooding in the county that happened prior to the discovery of bird flu, she said.
“The pond water was used at the poultry farm,” she said. “It has nothing to do with our recent flooding.”
The positive test poses no public health threat, and bird flu (H7N7) cannot be transmitted to people “through the consumption of properly prepared poultry,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.
However, bird flu can be spread to people, usually through contact with contaminated poultry or with contaminated surface areas, according to the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.
The state is coordinating with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on additional testing, according to the governor’s office.
Scroggin said the ban on poultry could have an impact on the state economy, since 47 percent of Arkansas’ agricultural production in is in poultry.
However, he said he expects the issue to be resolved, and added the state is working with officials in the places where Arkansas poultry is banned to have sales reinstated.