HARRISBURG, Pa. -- As a precaution, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture temporarily closed a live bird market in Philadelphia yesterday after birds tested positive for a mild strain of avian influenza.

This strain poses no threat to human health and is different from the strain currently in Asia. Another live bird market, closed last month for 24 days for a similar mild strain, was reopened after negative follow-up testing on Dec. 9.

"There are many types of avian influenza, and these particular strains pose no threat to people," said Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff. "These strains are discovered about 15 to 20 times a year among commercial flocks and live bird markets, and there is no reason for alarm.

"We have the measures in place to detect and remove avian influenza quickly. The previous occurrence in Philadelphia has been successfully resolved and the market has been reopened after quarantine and re-testing, further proving that our procedures are effective."

Wolff added that Pennsylvania leads the nation in avian influenza surveillance, testing more than 240,000 samples each year.

"As soon as the department identified the positive test, we sent our veterinarians to the site to close the market, dispose of the birds and clean the facility according to state protocols," said State Veterinarian Dr. Paul Knepley.

"The important thing for people to know is this virus does not cause human or bird sickness and that avian influenza is not a food borne illness; eggs and meat from Pennsylvania's poultry industry are safe to eat."

If a bird tests positive for avian influenza, the flock is immediately quarantined. The Department of Agriculture will investigate all distribution channels of the birds as they traveled to and from the market, to ensure isolation of all sources of the virus. The virus for this bird market was discovered during routine surveillance.

For more information on avian influenza, visit the Department's Web site or click on avian influenza at www.usda.gov for USDA information.

SOURCE: Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture via PR newswire.