updated 3/8/2004 12:49:16 PM ET 2004-03-08T17:49:16

The discovery of a form of bird flu in Maryland has prompted the slaughter of 328-thousand birds on two huge commercial chicken farms. That’s nearly four times the number killed when two Delaware farms were infected last month.

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The slaughter began today, and is expected to take until Tuesday.

Authorities say the cases in Delaware and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore are from the same H-7 strain, which is not harmful to humans.

Maryland agriculture officials immediately ordered a quarantine that covers eight farms within a two-mile radius of the infected farm and began testing 79 poultry farms within a six-mile radius.

Officials emphasize that while the strain is not a threat to humans, it can wipe out poultry farms -- especially if it turns up in a highly pathogenic form.

The flu case dims hopes that international markets banning U.S. poultry will drop their embargoes.

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