A domestic animal health inspectors, from Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, right, approaches a truck arriving arriving with a pair of turkeys for the auction at Roots Tuesday, April 26, 2022. Inspectors were giving people information about the avian flu and turning away poultry from farms within a control zone. Control zones are the area within a 10-kilometer radius around a farm infected with the avian flu.
Lancaster County has gone a month without a new confirmed case of bird flu at one of its many poultry farms, giving experts reason to believe an ongoing outbreak has slowed.
To date, the highly infectious strain of avian influenza has led to the death of more than 3.8 million domesticated birds in the county, as well as disruptions to poultry operations in flu-related quarantine zones.
“Certainly, things are trending in a very positive direction, both in Pennsylvania and nationally,” said Chris Herr, executive vice president of PennAg Industries Association. “I’d love to think we are out of the woods on this, but I’m not naive enough to say it.”
Officials at the state Department of Agriculture said they could not predict when the current outbreak will end or to even say that it is waning, but added “the decrease in new cases is encouraging.”
The last new case of avian flu in the Lancaster County was discovered May 10 in an egg-laying flock. It was the last of eight commercial flocks — a combination of ducks and chickens, both meat birds and egg-layers — infected since mid-April.
The 3.8 million county birds are among nearly 40 million birds affected by the virus nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. By Friday, the virus had infected birds within 369 commercial or backyard poultry flocks in 36 states since winter, according to the USDA.
Those infections are due to a strain of avian influenza that has been described as highly pathogenic, meaning it is highly contagious and typically lethal to poultry.
The illness is most commonly spread when healthy birds come in contact with bodily fluids secreted by infected birds, either through direct bird-to-bird contact or on contaminated surfaces, equipment, vehicles or clothing used by humans.
Spring migrations through the county have mostly wrapped up by now, Herr said, which could drastically reduce, though not eliminate, the number of wild birds with the potential to spread the illness.
He also credited local poultry farmers for their efforts in slowing the flu’s spread, specifically their ongoing and bolstered use of biosecurity practices — on-farm precautions meant to limit human-related transmission.
When birds sick with the flu are discovered on a farm, poultry and egg farmers typically must euthanize their entire flocks as a government-mandated attempt to curb further spread to neighboring operations.
In Lancaster County, that has meant the depopulation of millions of birds across the eight infected properties, four of which have since been released from their infected status.
Pennsylvania has had a confirmed case as recently as June 2 in neighboring Berks County. During this outbreak, Berks and Lancaster counties are the only ones in the state to see confirmed cases of the flu in domesticated poultry, according to USDA.
Support local journalism. Click here to learn more about the role the Lancaster County Local Journalism Fund plays in Lancaster County and to make a tax-deductible donation.
source: LNP | LancasterOnline