By Rep. Steven Mentzer (R-Lititz)
The United States Department of Agriculture last week confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza (HPAI) of North American wild bird lineage in a commercial chicken breeder flock in Tennessee. This is the first confirmed case of HPAI in commercial poultry in the United States this year.
This issue is critical to Lancaster County’s economy as we raise 33 percent of all the commercial poultry in Pennsylvania. There are also many families in our area that maintain “backyard” flocks that could become infected if a worst-case-scenario plays out.
As a result, our own state Department of Agriculture is urging poultry producers and backyard poultry enthusiasts to take important safety measures. Since 2015, the Pennsylvania agriculture department has spent considerable time preparing and practicing its high-path avian influenza (HPAI) response plan, working with counterparts at the state and local levels, as well as industry partners.
The department also issued two interstate quarantine orders which remain in effect. The first requires 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. Additionally, written documentation of cleaning and disinfection must be maintained.
Given the deadly and potentially devastating nature of HPAI, experts are stressing that prevention and preparedness are essential because the virus spreads rapidly and flocks could be wiped out by the time the diagnosis is confirmed.
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 agriculture.pa.gov
and refer to the “Avian Influenza” box on the right side of the homepage.