WASHINGTON (AP) – Poultry farmers in southwestern states that suffered an outbreak of a highly infectious bird disease can start shipping their birds again.

Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said Monday that her department was lifting poultry quarantines in Arizona, Nevada, Texas and parts of California because federal and state officials have eradicated an outbreak of Exotic Newcastle, a bird disease that infected several egg-laying flocks.

However, the quarantine remains in effect for parts of San Diego County, Calif., where the disease remains prevalent, department officials said. The disease paralyzes and kills birds, but it poses no threat to humans.

The outbreak was first found in egg-laying flocks in California last November. As the disease spread eastward, the department imposed quarantines prohibiting farmers in the affected areas from shipping poultry.

Officials believe farm workers that keep cockfighting roosters infected with Exotic Newcastle spread it to egg farms. The infection can be carried on people’s clothing and shoes.

The federal government spent $11.5 million from October to May to destroy 144,000 birds characterized as game fowl.

On the Net:

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: http://www.aphis.usda.gov

AP-ES-08-04-03 1238EDT

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