updated 11/6/2006 1:26:12 PM ET 2006-11-06T18:26:12

The government has approved the use of firefighting foam to quickly kill chickens if there is an outbreak of deadly bird flu in commercial poultry.

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The Agriculture Department says water-based foam can be an alternative to carbon dioxide, which has traditionally been used to quickly kill large quantities of birds.

Gassing involves more workers and exposes them to potentially infected birds, and it can be difficult to maintain a high enough concentration of gas to kill the bird, according to the department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Foam can be used to suffocate floor-reared flocks — chickens and turkeys raised primarily for meat — to contain deadly bird flu, APHIS spokeswoman Karen Eggert said. Foam can also be used in outbreaks of rapidly spreading disease, such as Exotic Newcastle, when state or federal officials deem it necessary.

And it can be used when birds are in structurally unsound buildings, such as a building damaged by a hurricane or other natural disaster, she said.

Facts not fearsAnimal health officials in North Carolina and Delaware researched use of the foam to kill chickens quickly.

“Whenever you have a new solution to an old problem, it’s probably because the old solution had a number of shortcomings or was not idea,” said Marty Zaluski, North Carolina Agriculture Department veterinarian.

“Using gas was not safe for people, it was more intensive as far as personnel and it was not as humane for the animals,” Zaluski said.

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