ANNAPOLIS – Maryland’s Department of Agriculture is expected to issue an order today restricting the movement of poultry trucks coming into the state to prevent the spread of avian flu, a bird disease that contaminated more than four dozen flocks in Virginia.
Details of the order were being drafted Thursday afternoon, and it wasn’t clear whether it would ban poultry trucks from just Virginia or include surrounding states, said spokesman Don Vandrey.
No cases of infected poultry have been reported in Maryland, which last saw the spread of the highly contagious disease in 1993 in Queen Anne’s County.
The low-level avian flu does not affect humans, but the disease can be transmitted through people or trucks that have visited infected farms.
A little more than 1.4 million turkeys and chickens in the Shenandoah Valley have been infected with the disease, prompting the state veterinarian earlier this week to cancel public poultry shows and sales in the commonwealth.
Nearly 658,000 birds, mostly turkeys, were killed as of Thursday morning, and another 751,200 under quarantine are awaiting slaughter, said Elaine Lidholm of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
To guard against a possible epidemic in Maryland, the Delmarva Poultry Industry is also taking preventive measures, including testing birds in the area and postponing its banquet.
“Certainly, poultry farmers (in Maryland) are aware of the disease and how quickly it can spread,” Vandrey said. “The Delmarva Poultry Industry is equally aggressive in trying to prevent any movement within the organization.”
Maryland is the eighth-largest poultry farming state in the nation, producing about 283 million chickens a year, according to the National Chicken Council, an industry trade association.