PA State Veterinarian offers update on highly pathogenic avian influenza
Harrisburg, PA - Following confirmation of highly pathogenic avian influenza in a commercial poultry operation in southcentral Tennessee earlier this week, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is urging the commonwealth’s poultry producers and backyard poultry enthusiasts to take important steps that can help to protect domestic flocks.
“After a year reprieve, high-path avian influenza is back in the lower 48 states at a commercial poultry operation, and that should be a cause for concern,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “The best defense against HPAI is a good offense, beginning with an effective biosecurity plan that has been prepared, planned and practiced by individual poultry facilities. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture also urges flock owners to develop a site-specific HPAI flock plan. We’ve posted a generic form on our website to help poultry owners – large and small – to develop their own flock plan in case of an emergency like this.”
Since 2015, the state Agriculture department has spent considerable time preparing and practicing its HPAI response plan, working with counterparts at the state and local levels, as well as industry partners. Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed 2017-18 budget preserves $2 million for emergency preparedness and response, should it be necessary, in addition to the $1.1 million already invested in preparedness during 2015-16.
The department also issued two interstate quarantine orders which remain in effect. The first was established in June 2015, requiring poultry moving to live bird markets and eggs destined for a commercial breaking operation, from states with infected HPAI flocks, to meet 72-hour testing, paperwork and reporting requirements that certify the shipment tested negative for avian influenza. The second order requires that all vehicles, conveyances, containers and materials that transport poultry and related products be completely cleaned and disinfected using commercial truck washing equipment or other equivalent cleaning and disinfecting equipment prior to entry onto a new premises or poultry operation. There must be no visible buildups of manure or feathers before loading. Additionally, written documentation of cleaning and disinfection must be maintained.
The department’s state veterinarian, Dr. David Wolfgang, explained that biosecurity plans should focus on cleanliness and isolating domestic birds from those in the wild. Keep livestock, domestic animals, rodents and other pests away. Also, be aware that the virus can be carried on shoes and boots, as well as tools and vehicle tires, so flock owners should limit visitors and deliveries to only those who have cleaned and sanitized appropriately.
“Even though this case in Tennessee is hundreds of miles from Pennsylvania’s borders, we must be on guard,” said Wolfgang. “It’s migration season for wild birds, which can carry this disease, so this is a particularly risky time for commercial operations and backyard flocks. Additionally, Tennessee lies within the Mississippi migratory flyway, which connects with the Atlantic flyway that overlies Pennsylvania.”
Flock plans address risk mitigation, depopulation, disposal and cleaning and disinfection methods. Producers are also reminded of the importance of having a premises identification or ID. Premises identification numbers provide the department with a way to locate and contact producers in the event that HPAI is found within the state and to share any precautions the producer may need to take given the proximity of the exposure to their operation.
The guidance and caution from state officials comes after the United State Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS, confirmed on Sunday the presence of H7N9 avian influenza in a commercial chicken breeder flock of more than 73,000 birds in Lincoln County, TN. Although nearby commercial facilities tested negative for the disease, local responders continue to monitor both commercial and backyard poultry for signs infection.
Given the deadly and potentially devastating nature of HPAI, experts stress that prevention and preparedness are essential because the virus spreads rapidly and flocks could be wiped out by the time the diagnosis is confirmed.
Aside from preparedness, Dr. Wolfgang stressed the importance of vigilance on the part of producers and reporting any signs of distress or elevated mortality rates to state officials promptly.
“Poultry owners and producers need to be especially vigilant,” Wolfgang added. “If you see anything suspicious or out of the ordinary with your flock, it is imperative to notify the department’s Bureau of Animal Health immediately. A few hours can make a world of difference when it comes to containing this disease should it be found here.”
Poultry owners who see signs of potential HPAI infection are urged to call the department’s Bureau of Animal Health at 717-772-2852.
For more information about HPAI, including biosecurity measures and premises registration, visit the department’s website at www.agriculture.pa.gov and refer to the “Avian Influenza” box on the right side of the homepage.
MEDIA CONTACT: Bonnie J. McCann - 717.783.0133 direct or 717.603.2200 mobile
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