040206 SC Poultry Producers Act Against Avian FluFebruary 13, 2004
Columbia, SC - Poultry production is a $1.5 billion business in South Carolina.
Columbia Farms in West Columbia employs about 700 workers and processes almost three million chickens monthly. Columbia Farms spokesman David Rush says anything that might affect production could also be felt throughout the state's poultry industry, "It's a lot of dollars for a lot of people." Rush says that's why his company and other producers are taking extra precautions to stop the spread of the newest strain of Avian Flu.
He says the plant was closed to anyone but employees this week, "We are trying to prevent anyone from coming in from outside. We can't stop deliveries, but we want to prevent the spread of it."
Other South Carolina poultry companies told WIS News 10 they have similar safeguards in place.
The flu has been found at four live chicken markets in northern New Jersey, just days after similar outbreaks at farms in Delaware led to the slaughter of 80,000 birds. Delaware's state agriculture commissioner imposed a quarantine.
Rush says it's not just the plant and its workers that could suffer if the virus showed up. Many producers contract with dozens of small independent farming operations.
The form of Avian Flu showing up in the northeast is not the same as the so-called Asian Bird Flu that has spread throughout Asia and has been linked to at least 19 human deaths. A spokesman for the Perdue company, which has a branch in Dillon, says the type of virus causing problems in the US is a threat to the animals, but does not affect food safety or human health.
South Carolina's agriculture department reports no signs of any Avian Flu in the state.