Virus Threatens Birds in the Borderland

Friday, February 25, 2011 - 12:07pm

EL PASO - The U.S. food supply could be at risk because of a virus spreading in Juarez.

Hundreds of birds have dropped dead across the city and now people are hoping the outbreak does not spread to U.S. poultry.

"The problem is it spreads very easily. It spreads through the air, it spreads through the contact with any discharges from the bird or tissues. It can be on your shoes and you can track it to another area where there's birds."

Doctor Nancy Harvey is a bird expert who owns her own clinic. She says the virus causes nasal and eye discharge, diarrhea, paralysis, tremors and even sudden death in birds.

"It's not a virus of dogs and cats so Coco you don't have to worry about this one."

Can the bird virus spread to people?

"It's not contagious to people but it could really wipe out the poultry industry."

We are told the last major outbreak was in the 1970's when the U.S. had to destroy millions of birds in California.

A smaller local outbreak happened in 2003 in El Paso's Lower Valley.

Dr. Harvey says because the virus spreads so easily, and has recently been detected over the border, it could spread to El Paso but she says the biggest risk is not from birds that fly over the border, it is from people who smuggle in birds for cockfighting.

"You know they're not going to contact a veterinarian and if those birds get out they can infect birds in the area and that would be a huge problem."

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