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Poultry owners warned to protect against highly pathogenic avian influenza


Harrisburg, PA – The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal Health and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed findings of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in birds within the United States. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture reminds Pennsylvanians to stay vigilant and review biosecurity practices.

HPAI is very contagious and can make wild and domesticated birds very sick or lead to death. Bird owners should step up biosecurity efforts to protect their flock and Pennsylvania’s $7.1 billion poultry industry at large.

“While we have not seen HPAI yet in Pennsylvania, we must continue efforts to actively safeguard the state against the threat of this damaging virus,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “The department’s Bureau of Animal Health and Diagnostic Services is on the forefront of controlling and eradicating diseases in livestock and poultry. Preventing emerging infectious diseases is critical to preventing economic loss to farmers and the commonwealth.”

As of February 17, 2022, the states of Indiana and Kentucky have reported commercial affected flocks and Virginia has reported a backyard affected flock of mixed birds.

With this imminent threat of highly pathogenic avian influenza, there are strategic measures both commercial producers and backyard flock owners can take to protect their birds and operations.

Biosecurity is most important for anyone who owns or works with poultry – whether on a commercial farm, in the wild, or a backyard flock. Pennsylvanians should take proper steps to keep HPAI from spreading.

  • Keep your distance: Restrict access to your property and poultry or post a biosecurity sign.
  • Keep it clean: Wear clean clothes, scrub boots/shoes with disinfectant and wash hands thoroughly.
  • Don’t haul disease home: If you, your employees or family have been on other farms, or other places where there is livestock and/or poultry, clean and disinfect your vehicle tires and equipment before returning home.
  • Don’t borrow disease from your neighbor: Do not share equipment, tools, or other supplies with your neighbors of other livestock or poultry owners.
  • Know the warning signs of infectious bird diseases: Know what diseases are of concern for your flock and be on the lookout for unusual signs of behavior, severe illness and/or sudden deaths. Early detection is important to prevent the spread of disease
  • Report sick birds: Don’t wait. Report serious or unusual animal health problems to your veterinarian, local extension office, or State or Federal Animal Health officials.

Have a premises ID. The ability to identify where poultry flocks are located in a disease outbreak is important to help animal health officials stop the spread of disease quickly. Using Premises ID, state officials can quickly notify all flock owners of a dangerous disease in their area, provide recommendations for reducing the risk of their flocks becoming infected, and recommend testing if needed to rule out disease.

Keep poultry away from areas frequented by wildfowl. Keep your birds indoors at high-risk times, including right now, as highly pathogenic avian influenza is circulating in the Atlantic Flyway. If they cannot go indoors, make sure wild birds cannot access their feed and water sources.

Keep control over the access of people and equipment to poultry houses. If infected wild birds are in the area, reduce the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry are kept. Change your clothes before and after contact with your flock, and ensure visitors do the same.

Maintain sanitation of property, poultry houses, equipment, vehicles and footwear. Disinfect regularly and maintain biosecure restricted access to your facility. For commercial poultry owners, clean and disinfect housing at the end of a production cycle. Wash your hands before and after contact with birds.

All poultry producers should always ensure biosecurity practices are part of their daily routine to continue to protect the poultry industry.

Be aware of the signs and symptoms of HPAI in your flock:

  • Sudden death,
  • Lack of energy and appetite,
  • Decreased egg production or soft-shelled, misshapen eggs,
  • Nasal discharge, coughing, sneezing,
  • Incoordination,
  • Diarrhea.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these avian influenza detections do not present an immediate public health concern. No human cases of these avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States.

We encourage Pennsylvanians to reach out to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Animal Health and Diagnostics. Contact 717-772-2852 or email [email protected].

For more information about avian influenza, visit the department’s website at www.agriculture.pa.gov or the USDA’s website here USDA APHIS | Defend the Flock Program.