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December 17, 2004
Contact: Mick Cope, (360) 902-2691

WDFW acts to prevent spread of disease at Centralia pheasant-rearing facility

OLYMPIA - The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) today began euthanising 2,200 adult pheasants at its Centralia Game Farm, and will take steps to disinfect the rearing facilities after discovering an outbreak of the bacterial infection Mycoplasma gallisepticum in the birds.

The disease, known as "MG," cannot be transmitted to people or species other than birds, said Dr. Leonard Eldridge, state veterinarian with the Washington Department of Agriculture. The naturally occuring illness is not related to so-called "avian flu" that has made headlines recently in Asia.

After the facility is disinfected, the department plans to bring in new pheasants to rear for the 2005 hunting season, said Mick Cope, WDFW's upland game section manager.

Because the disease does not affect humans, there is no cause for concern among hunters who harvested and consumed pheasants this fall, he added.

The illness, which can affect both wild birds and domestic poultry, leaves birds subject to secondary infections. Birds with the illness may display symptoms such as watering eyes, coughing or sneezing. The illness can affect weight gain and reproduction, and can be passed to young in the egg stage. Once birds contract the illness they cannot be treated, Cope said.

It is not clear how pheasants at the Centralia rearing facility were exposed to the illness, Cope said, adding that new precautions are planned to minimize the chances of infecting birds brought into the facility.