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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - The Maryland Agriculture Department says the heightened risk of bird flu makes it a bad idea to buy baby chickens and ducks as Eastertime gifts for children.

The agency said in a statement Tuesday that handling live poultry can cause serious illness from germs that also include salmonella.

The department says people who choose to purchase live poultry should get the birds only from hatcheries certified by the U.S. Agriculture Departments' National Poultry Improvement Plan.

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POCOMOKE CITY, Md. (AP) - Officials at Perdue farms say 6,000 chicks were killed in a fire at its research facility near Pocomoke City.

Spokeswoman Julie DeYoung says the fire broke out about 3:15 p.m. Wednesday in two buildings on the campus. She says no employees were there because all had left at 2 p.m.

DeYoung says the facility does research on breeds, nutrition and feeding.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.