The state has told Maine’s only livestock auction house that it can resume poultry auctions next week after having shut it down out of caution over a potential chicken health scare.

John Bott, spokesman for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, said that on May 11 birds from Maine sold in Massachusetts tested positive for the presence of the Influenza A virus in routine market testing by a U.S. Department of Agriculture lab.

USDA officials quickly contacted Maine officials, who reached out both to the farm the chickens were from and to Somerset Auction Co. in Fairfield, where they could have passed through, for more testing.

All results have so far come back negative with final results due next week.

Out of caution, Bott said the usual Monday poultry auction at Somerset Auction was cancelled this week and state veterinarians met with chicken owners there.

State Veterinarian Michele Walsh said officials are vigilant about monitoring poultry health, particularly after an avian influenza outbreak three years ago that turned into “the largest and most expensive animal disease outbreak in the history of our country.”

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“The positive (test result) in Massachusetts was not an avian influenza, it was an Influenza A — the preliminary test that puts it in the family of viruses that avian influenza belongs in,” Walsh said. “What we’re trying to do is be proactive to protect our poultry and our poultry owners, and keep our fingers on the pulse with routine surveillance. What we see here is an example of us activating our response plan because there was the very distinct possibility that what we had at hand was going to turn out to be avian influenza, although luckily for all of us, right now it seems it was just an Influenza A and . . . all birds we have visited and tested are apparently healthy.”

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A chicken walks through a field in Litchfield in this 2016 Sun Journal file photo. State officials this week suspended poultry sales at Maine’s only livestock auction over potential health concerns. Sales have been approved to resume Monday. 

A chicken crosses the road in Litchfield to get to the other side in this 2016 Sun Journal file photo. State officials this week suspended poultry sales at Maine’s only livestock auction over potential health concerns. Sales have been approved to resume Monday.


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