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US Army rules out bird flu chicken deaths
10:22 am GMT+12, 16/08/2011, Marshall Islands
Avian flu and Newcastle Disease did not cause the death of nearly 100 chickens on a small island next to the U.S. Army’s Kwajalein missile testing range in the Marshall Islands.

But the cause of the illness outbreak that killed most of the chickens and ducks on Carlson Island during July has not yet been determined. This is alarming local leaders.

“A hundred chickens rolling over dead on the island next to Kwajalein is a serious matter,” said Kwajalein Sen. Tony deBrum. “And we continue to be seriously concerned about public health threats to the community there as well as to the rest of the Kwajalein Atoll population.”

“Our medical personnel have received results back from the testing of specimens taken on Carlson Island,” said U.S. Army Maj. Christopher D. Mills. The Army took samples of the dead birds from Carlson for laboratory testing at the request of the Marshall Islands government. “Results provided have ruled out Avian Influenza and Newcastle’s Disease,” Mills said.

The Newcastle disease virus does not pose significant hazards to human health, but strains of Avian flu have proved deadly for humans.

A Ministry of Health and Environmental Protection Authority team first visited the island last month in response to reports of the outbreak. They reported that no other animals such as dogs and cats were affected by whatever killed the fowls.

DeBrum thanked the “military for telling us that Newcastle and Avian flu are not the culprits.”

But deBrum wants follow up with the Army to get a determination of what did cause the outbreak of illness in July.

The big question of what caused the bird deaths has “been hanging over our collective heads for more than a month,” deBrum said. “But it should not be dropped here.”

He urged the Marshall Islands government to bring in experts from Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) and Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) “to see if we can get to the bottom of this mystery.” .

SOURCE: MARIANAS VARIETY/PACNEWS

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