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Archive Number 20030209.0353
Published Date 09-FEB-2003
Subject PRO/AH/EDR> Newcastle disease, game birds, poultry - USA (CA) (06)

NEWCASTLE DISEASE, GAME BIRDS, POULTRY - USA (CALIFORNIA) (06)
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A ProMED-mail post
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ProMED-mail, a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
<http://www.isid.org/>

Date: 9 Feb 2003
From: Stephen Apatow <s.m.apatow@humanitarian.net>
Source: Modesto Bee [edited]
<http://www.modbee.com/local/story/6130728p-7083314c.html>


Fighting roosters spreading disease?
---------------------------------
The moment the roosters are released, they flap their wings wildly 
and attack. With sharpened razors tied to their claws, the 
well-trained birds slash into each other, sending blood spurting. 
Such fights don't end until one bird is too weak to go on. It usually 
dies and is tossed into a hole, joining the day's other losers.

Merced County, California, is a popular spot for the battles, and 
officials are concerned that an outbreak of exotic Newcastle disease 
could result.

The state's $3.2 billion poultry industry says cockfighting has 
played a role in spreading the disease, which has led to the deaths 
of more than 2 million chickens in California.

"The fighting birds are moved around the state without regard to 
quarantines," said Bill Mattos, president of the Modesto-based 
California Poultry Federation. "They don't go to veterinarians. 
They're not vaccinated."

That concern is echoed by the state Department of Food and 
Agriculture and valley law enforcement, which say cockfighting is 
growing in popularity despite being illegal since 1905.

"We've done several seizures at cockfights and found sick birds," 
said Frank Swiggart, a detective with the Merced County Sheriff's 
Department. "When we've had them checked, it turns out they're 
carrying diseases."

That worries officials because Merced County is home to Foster Farms 
Poultry. The Livingston-based company produces more than 90 percent 
of California's chicken meat.

Newcastle hasn't been found in the valley, but officials say it only 
takes one bird to bring it in. The spread of Newcastle disease is 
rapid.  Newcastle doesn't only kill the birds it infects; it forces 
the destruction of any birds in the vicinity. The disease spreads 
rapidly and can infect an entire barn before the first bird shows any 
sign of sickness.

Newcastle and cockfighting have been hot topics in the valley's 
agricultural community since the first case was confirmed in October 
2002, in 6 backyard flocks in Los Angeles.  Some of those flocks had 
hens for laying eggs, state agricultural officials said. Other flocks 
had roosters, the type used for cockfighting.  Officials believe 
cockfighting is one reason Newcastle spread swiftly in Southern 
California, despite a quarantine. It was recently found in backyard 
flocks in Nevada and Arizona.  Agricultural inspectors have yet to 
identify how Newcastle was brought to those out-of-state flocks, but 
law enforcement has an idea.

"We'll raid a fight in Merced County and find people from Nevada, New 
Mexico, Mexico, Arizona, and Southern California," Swiggart said. 
"They bring birds to fight and take the survivors home. Dead ones are 
left here."  The roosters could bring Newcastle with them, Mattos 
said, or could be infected by another bird and carry the disease home.

A highly contagious, virulent disease, Newcastle is harmless to 
humans but a death sentence to poultry, including chickens, turkeys, 
squab, and game birds.

"It could be devastating for the poultry industry if Newcastle was 
found in the valley," Mattos said. "Foster Farms alone has about 14 
000 employees. The economic damage created by an illegal cockfight 
could be terrible."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reimburses commercial 
producers for the value of their birds, but there is no compensation 
for sales lost when foreign markets ban California poultry.

While it's illegal to raise roosters for fighting, it can be 
difficult to prove that's what the birds will be used for, Swiggart 
said. "These guys have 2 to 400 roosters, on the pretext of raising 
show birds," Swiggart said.  "They're tied to stakes, in the open, 
and go through a training regimen to make them fighters." It's also 
illegal to watch or take part in a cockfight, as well as to possess 
the artificial spurs -- called gaffs and slashers -- the birds use to 
attack each other.

Trainers disregard law. That hasn't stopped the activity, however. 
Swiggart noted that Delhi, Winton, and other rural areas of Merced 
County are well known for fighting cocks. Cockfighting played a role 
in the spread of Newcastle in 1971. An outbreak led to the deaths of 
12 million chickens in California, and the government spent $56 
million eradicating the disease.

In Southern California, the 8-county region is under quarantine, 
prohibiting poultry from leaving the area.

Since cockfighting is illegal, poultry officials and law enforcement 
don't expect their trainers to follow the law.

"Fighting cocks pose the greatest problem because they move from one 
place to another and can carry the disease," Mattos said. "They're 
not going to announce they're taking a bird into the next state for a 
cockfight."

[Byline: Richard T. Estrada]

--
ProMED-mail
<promed@promedmail.org>

[see also:
Newcastle disease, game birds - USA (AZ): OIE      20030208.0337
Newcastle disease, game fowl, plty. - USA (west)      20030206.0318
Newcastle disease, game fowl, plty. - USA (CA,NV) (02) 20030204.0304
Newcastle disease, poultry - USA (AZ): suspected      20030202.0289
Newcastle disease, game fowl, poultry - USA: control      20030129.0260
Newcastle disease, U.S. poultry ban extended - Mexico      20030127.0247
Newcastle disease, game fowl, poultry - USA (CA, NV)      20030127.0246
Newcastle disease, game birds - USA (NV) (02) 20030126.0237
Newcastle disease, game birds, poultry - USA (CA) (05) 20030117.0145
Newcastle disease, game birds - USA (NV)      20030117.0138
Newcastle disease, game birds, poultry - USA (CA)      20030103.0014
2002
----
Newcastle disease, game birds, poultry - USA (CA)      20021228.6147
Newcastle disease, game birds - USA (CA) (11) 20021221.6104
Newcastle disease, game birds - USA (CA) (02) 20021012.5533
Newcastle disease, game birds - USA (TX): warning      20021006.5482
Newcastle disease, game birds - USA (CA): OIE      20021004.5468]
...............tg/pg/lm
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