Poultry owners and farmers — be on the lookout

PHOTO PROVIDED Chickens are among the many impacted by the bird flu that is circulating this year. Poultry owners are encouraged to be vigilant with their flocks.

Highly Pathonogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), a contagious and deadly avian influenza has been detected in Pennsylvania and is a high-level threat to Pennsylvania’s poultry farmers. Known outbreaks have been identified in both Lancaster (April) and Berks (May) counties.

Avian influenza or HPAI, more commonly known as “bird flu,” is caused by an influenza type A virus. Avian influenza viruses can occur naturally in wild birds, especially waterfowl and shore or wading birds. Wild bird species (such as ducks and geese) can carry and spread Avian Influenza viruses without becoming ill. However, in recent months certain types of HPAI viruses have affected wild waterfowl as well as domestic poultry species. Avian influenza in birds is very contagious and can cause serious disease and high mortality in domestic poultry such as chickens, quail, pheasants, guinea fowl and turkeys.

“State, federal and county government, as well as private poultry industry representatives, remain on high alert and are taking strict measures to protect Pennsylvania’s poultry industry,” said Clinton County Conservation District Manager, Wade Jodun.

Jodun further emphasized that, “protection starts with smart biosecurity measures.” These include: (1) Allowing only essential personnel to access areas where birds are kept; (2) disinfecting any vehicles that enter your farm; (3) not lending or borrowing equipment from other farms; (4) bringing only cleaned and disinfected items into your bird area; (5) avoiding contact with other poultry and, if you cannot avoid contact, change clothes and shoes before working with your own birds; (6) washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water before entering and after leaving your bird area; (7) using footbaths with disinfectants when entering and leaving your bird housing or wearing disposable boot covers; (8) changing into fresh protective gear between poultry houses or coops. (9) keeping poultry separate from wild birds. Don’t let them share water sources or have access to common areas frequented by wild birds; (10) eliminating standing water on your farm and cleaning up feed spills to avoid attracting wild birds; (11) keeping visitors to a minimum. Only allowing people who take care of your poultry to come in contact with your birds and making sure everyone who has contact with your flock follows biosecurity protocols and (12) monitoring your birds for signs of illness.

If you see any sudden increase in bird deaths in your flock; signs of sneezing, gasping for air, coughing, and nasal discharge; watery and green diarrhea; lack of energy and poor appetite; a drop in egg production or soft- or thin-shelled, misshapen eggs; swelling around the eyes, neck, and head of your birds; purple discoloration of the wattles, comb, and legs; or ruffed feathers, listlessness, or lethargy: call the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Hotline immediately! There is no penalty for calling and testing and surveillance assistance is available. Do not move the birds from the premises. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture emergency number is 717-772-2852 (press option 1 to reach the veterinarian on call).

Pennsylvanians can assist with HPAI surveillance efforts by reporting any sick or dead wild birds to the Game Commission at 610-926-3136 or pgc-wildlifehealth@pa.gov.

If residents have had contact with sick or dead domestic or wild birds and are not feeling well, they are encouraged to contact their primary care physician or the Pennsylvania Department of Health at 877-724-3258.

While HPAI can potentially infect humans, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared that the current HPAI outbreak is primarily an animal health issue that poses low risk to humans.


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