BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) – The plum pox virus, which decreases fruit production but doesn’t harm people, has been detected for the first time in New York at a Niagara County orchard, agriculture officials announced.

The virus was found on plum tree leaf samples collected by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets as part of a seven-year survey for the virus. The plum pox virus was detected in neighboring Pennsylvania in 1999 and Canada, within five miles of the Niagara County location, in 2000. The strain found in all three locations, the D strain, is less virulent and easier to contain than other strains, authorities said. Plum pox is a viral disease of stone fruits, including peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots. The virus is spread by insects, in whose mouths the virus can stay viable for about an hour.

The virus severely decreases a tree’s fruit production. Infected fruit may appear deformed or blemished and could drop prematurely from trees. However, there is no danger to animals or people who eat it, experts said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which confirmed the presence of the virus in New York, will work with state officials on an eradication program. Specialists are currently surveying a five-mile radius around the 108-tree orchard where the virus was found.

to determine the extent of infestation and establish a quarantine area.

The discovery is not expected to hinder production or the harvest of stone fruit in Niagara County this year, state agriculture officials said.

AP-ES-07-20-06 1546EDT

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