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Avian Influenza Strain in 4 New Jersey Live Bird Markets Not Harmful to Humans

For Immediate Release: Feb. 12, 2004


Hope Gruzlovic




Four of New Jersey’s 30 urban live bird markets have tested positive for a mild form of avian influenza during routine testing, but this strain of virus poses no risk to human health, officials from the N.J. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Senior Services said today.

“It is not unusual to find this mild strain of avian influenza in our live bird markets,” said Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus. “Avian influenza thrives during the winter months, which is why we test during this period. Typically about 40 percent of New Jersey’s live bird markets intermittently test positive during cold-weather months. When a positive result is found, the markets are required to clean and disinfect until the virus has been eliminated. We’re continually working to ensure that our live bird markets are free of this disease.”

"The avian influenza subtype H7N2 currently detected in New Jersey live bird markets is not a human health threat," said Clifton R. Lacy, M.D., Commissioner of Health and Senior Services.

Avian influenza are forms of Influenza A that infect birds. Influenza Type A is a virus that is found in a variety of different animals and in humans. Wild birds are the primary natural reservoir for subtypes of Influenza A viruses.

Avian influenza has two forms: a low pathogenic form that causes mild illness in birds and a highly pathogenic form that is extremely contagious and causes severe illness to birds. Influenza A viruses are divided into subtypes based on two surface proteins designated by the letters H and N.

The avian influenza that has been identified in New Jersey has been characterized as H7N2, which is a common form of avian influenza found typically during cold weather months. It is a low pathogenic, mild form of avian influenza. It has not demonstrated the propensity to mutate to more pathogenic forms. There have been no reports of transmission from animals to humans.

The Department of Agriculture has rules in place to keep markets from being infected, including a requirement that all birds coming into New Jersey markets must test negative for avian influenza. If the virus is found despite these precautions, markets are required to clean and disinfect to eliminate the virus. Poultry dealers dropping birds off at markets should also be following recommended biosecurity practices – for example, changing clothes and cleaning cages and equipment before returning to farms – to prevent the spread of the disease.

The Department of Health and Senior Services reminds everyone to follow the routine recommendations for prevention of any foodborne illness, including thoroughly cooking meat, poultry and eggs; avoiding cross-contaminating one food with another; washing produce before consumption; and refrigerating leftovers promptly.

The Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Agriculture are working closely together to educate the public and address avian flu in New Jersey.

For more information about avian flu visit http://www.rce.rutgers.edu/avianflu/ .