to combat avian flu with vaccines"
By Donna Tommelleo, Associated Press Writer
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The state will take the unprecedented step of
vaccinating millions of chickens in response to an outbreak of avian influenza
at Connecticut's largest egg farm.
The only other alternative would be destroying the 3 million infected
birds at Kofkoff Egg Farm, acting Agriculture Commissioner Bruce Gresczyk
said Friday. That would be a severe blow to the regional economy and the
farm, which has operations in five eastern Connecticut towns.
"The spinoff effect of jobs and businesses would be in jeopardy," Gresczyk
The vaccinations require federal approval because the serum is at a
state laboratory in Maine and must be transported across state lines. U.S.
Department of Agriculture approval is expected within the next two weeks.
The vaccinations are part of an eradication pilot program.
"It's never been done on such a large scale before," Gresczyk said.
A mild form of the disease was suspected two weeks ago and was confirmed
this week in the Kofkoff chickens. The infected birds were at the farm's
Mack Road coops Lebanon and on Schwartz Road in Bozrah.
"It went through the entire complex," Gresczyk said.
The outbreak prompted Japan to temporarily ban all U.S. poultry imports.
Japan lifted the ban after receiving assurance that proper steps were being
taken; however, a ban on Connecticut poultry remains in effect.
The illness resulted in just a few bird deaths, Gresczyk said. Those
that recovered have a lifetime immunity, Gresczyk said.
"It passed through them like the common cold and they will never get
it again," he said.
The low-pathogen form of the disease does not affect humans or other
mammals. It also does not the affect eggs, and egg production has resumed
at a normal level, he said.
About 1.25 million birds at Kofkoff's other coops on smaller sites in
Lebanon, Bozrah and Franklin were not infected, he said.
Agriculture officials are awaiting test results next week on Kofkoff
birds at coops in Hebron and Colchester, but expect them to be negative
because those birds showed no signs of the disease.
Strict quarantine and biosecurity measures remain at Kofkoff and the
state has broadened its surveillance to farms with 500 or more birds. State
agriculture officials say they are in constant contact with USDA veterinarians
and agriculture officials in other Northeast states where the investigation
"We'll know better in a few weeks if we have it anywhere else in Connecticut
and in a few months if we have it anywhere in New England," Gresczyk said.
Kofkoff supplies nearly 90 percent of the eggs in the state and much
of the New England market, producing nearly 24 million eggs a week. It
employs 290 people and has an annual payroll of $11 million. The farm also
is the largest customer of the New England Central Railroad. Nearly 40
percent of the railroad's cargo is chicken feed, Gresczyk said.
"Depopulation just wasn't a workable option," Gresczyk said.
Destroying the chickens also would have cost the state about $35 million.
Instead, the state will supervise the vaccination of pullets, or young
replacement chickens, as they enter the production line. Laying hens generally
have a life span of 2 years on the line, Gresczyk said.
The farm will bear the cost of the vaccines. Gresczyk had no estimate
of the vaccine price. Repeated calls seeking comment to Kofkoff managers
were not returned.
The source of the disease has not been determined but there are possibilities,
including infected wild fowl. Gresczyk said the state Department of Environmental
Protection plans to test wild turkeys.
"This is something we always dreaded," Gresczyk said. "Fortunately,
we planned for it."