Avian Flu

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Pennsylvania Preparing for Threat of Avian Influenza Virus

Virus has not been found in the state, risk to humans remains low

Since December 2014, two strains of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) have been making their way eastward across the United States – H5N2 and H5N8. One strain, H5N2, has proven especially lethal to poultry, impacting 95 percent of the nearly 50 million birds that have died due to the infection. This disease has been devastating to America’s poultry industry.

Fortunately, the disease has not yet reached Pennsylvania, but it is likely only a matter of time. And while the disease presently has shown no known impact to human health, we in Pennsylvania should be concerned given the importance of our poultry industry, which accounts for $13 billion in economic activity and supports more than 53,000 jobs.

The General Assembly is monitoring this situation closely. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) has also been diligently planning for an outbreak and readying its response efforts, in coordination with industry, should avian influenza enter the commonwealth.

To help prevent this disease, poultry and egg growers and producers should be sure they have strong biosecurity measures in place on their operations. My office has resources available to help those in the industry prepare for and protect against this disease. PDA also has information available which can be accessed at www.agriculture.state.pa.us. Click on the avian influenza banner at the top of the page.

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Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)

  • Since December 2014, two different strains of avian influenza have been tracking eastward across the U.S. infecting hundreds of flocks and killing about 50 million birds (as of mid-June). One of the two strains tied to this outbreak – the H5N2 strain – has caused more than 95 percent of the infections associated with the present threat, and it is especially lethal to poultry.
  • We in the General Assembly are monitoring the situation closely. The state Department of Agriculture has briefed the legislature on its planning efforts, which have been underway since February. The state is working with industry, academia, and the federal government to monitor the spread of the disease nationwide, develop a response plan, and identify and secure the necessary resources to deploy once the disease is found in Pennsylvania.
  • Here is the reality: it is likely not a matter of if the virus will come to Pennsylvania, it is a matter of when.
  • We need to be prepared because Pennsylvania’s poultry industry is incredibly important economically.
    • According to the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, the poultry industry contributes more than $13 billion in total economic impact to Pennsylvania, including more than 53,000 jobs paying $3.2 billion in wages.
    • NOTE: The U.S. Poultry and Egg Association offers a breakdown, by legislative district, on the economic impact of the poultry industry in Pennsylvania at poultryfeedsamerica.org.
  • Fortunately, Pennsylvania has experience dealing with highly pathogenic avian influenza. The state has learned from that experience. In 1983-84, an outbreak killed 17 million birds, hitting our economy to the tune of $65 million.
  • There is definitely a role for producers and growers in prevention. Anyone with a poultry operation of any kind should be sure they have robust biosecurity measures in place that are fully followed by everyone on the farm and those who come and go from it.
  • There have not been any known human cases associated with the current HPAI outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider the risk to people from these HPAI infections to be low.
  • The United States has the strongest avian influenza (AI) surveillance program in the world. Residents can rest assured that the food supply remains safe, but are reminded – as always – to properly prepare and cook poultry and eggs (to an internal temperature of 165 degree Fahrenheit, which also kills the virus).
  • We have information from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for constituents with questions or concerns. The state Department of Agriculture also has information available at agriculture.state.pa.us.
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HPAI Resource Links

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