HARRISBURG, Pa. — With the risk of bird flu diminishing, Pennsylvania has lifted its ban on live poultry shows and exhibits in time for the upcoming county fair season.
After a year-long suspension of avian activities at the state’s 109 county fairs and the 2016 Pennsylvania Farm Show, state officials announced May 26 the ban will be lifted June 1. Instituted in May 2015, the ban was put in place as a precautionary measure to protect Pennsylvania’s $13 billion poultry industry against the threat of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, or HPAI, virus.
While avian activities will be allowed to resume, if a positive case is confirmed in Pennsylvania or a contiguous state, the ban will be reinstated immediately. Interstate quarantine orders will remain in effect.
No highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses have been detected in Pennsylvania since the 1983-84 outbreaks.
“We realize it was challenging for our exhibitors and visitors to have poultry missing from these events this last year,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “It was a difficult decision, but the right decision, to protect our state against the HPAI virus.”
“The prospect of another outbreak is always there,” he added, “which is why we have to remain vigilant, have flock plans in place and continue practicing good biosecurity measures.”
Redding added that in conjunction with the lifting of the ban, the department is instituting new testing protocols to protect against the virus. The state has instituted a 30-day testing protocol for entering poultry exhibits at county fairs, Redding said.
Previously, poultry had to test negative for avian influenza at least six months prior to the exhibit date. Now, per the fair guidance, poultry must be tested within the 30 days prior to the opening date of the exhibition.
Avian influenza, commonly known as “bird flu,” is caused by an influenza type-A virus. Avian influenza viruses occur naturally in birds. Avian influenza diseases are very contagious and some strains can make domesticated birds (including chickens, ducks, quail, pheasants, guinea fowl and turkeys) sick or even cause death.
While low pathogenic avian influenza may not cause high mortality in a flock, the H5 and H7 subtypes have the capacity to mutate into highly pathogenic forms of the virus, which, when multiplied systemically in poultry, can often cause very high mortality in infected flocks.
A case of HPAI has not been detected since January 2016 when a strain of the H7N8 virus impacted a commercial turkey flock in Dubois County, Indiana. This differed from the H5N2 strain that caused the larger outbreaks in 2015.
Since December 2014, the United States Department of Agriculture has confirmed cases of H5N2 in the Pacific, Central and Mississippi migratory bird paths. A case has not been found in the Atlantic Flyway. The department recommends producers have flock plans in place that address risk mitigation, depopulation, disposal and cleaning and disinfection methods.
Get a farm ID
Producers are also reminded of the importance of having a premises identification or ID, which lets the department locate and contact producers in the event that HPAI is found within the state.
Last summer, the department 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. Additionally, written documentation of cleaning and disinfection must be maintained.
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