PHILADELPHIA (CNN) — For the second straight year after a one-year precautionary ban in 2015, county and community fairs across Pennsylvania will be allowed to have poultry exhibits – as long as exhibitors continue to follow established testing protocols prior to entering their birds.Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding announced the decision Friday.
“The confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Tennessee this spring were reminders that the threat of this virus is ever present, so we must remain vigilant,” said Redding in the announcement. “Fortunately, Pennsylvania made it through another migration season with no detections of the disease-that’s in large part thanks to our aggressive surveillance work and the diligent planning and preparedness work of the industry and our partners. And while we want to continue to be cautious, ask everyone to be on the lookout, and practice good biosecurity measures, we felt comfortable allowing poultry to be part of this summer’s fairs.”
State Veterinarian Dr. David Wolfgang said the threat of avian flu has not gone away. In order for exhibitors to enter their poultry into competition at fairs, he said, they must first pass testing to ensure they are free of the disease.
“The threat of the HPAI virus is still very real,” Wolfgang said. “To keep the virus at bay, we have introduced a 30-day testing protocol for birds to participate in poultry exhibits at local fairs. In the past, poultry had to test negative for HPAI at least six months prior to the exhibit date. They must now test negative 30 days out from that exhibit date, or they will not be entered into competitions.”
HPAI, commonly known as “bird flu,” is caused by an influenza type-A virus. These viruses occur naturally in birds. Wild birds — such as ducks, swans and geese — can carry the virus, but usually do not exhibit symptoms.
The disease is very contagious and can make domesticated birds — including chickens, ducks, quail, pheasants, guinea fowl and turkeys — very sick or even cause death. Approximately 49 million birds were killed when a lethal strain of HPAI spread throughout mid-western states in 2015.
Both the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization agree that there is no evidence that the North American strains can be transmitted to humans.
The commonwealth has taken a number of pre-emptive and precautionary steps to protect the state’s poultry industry since 2015, including two interstate quarantine orders in the summer of 2015 that impose testing requirements on birds and eggs from HPAI-infected states and that establish cleaning and disinfection requirements on vehicles, conveyances, containers and other materials that transport poultry and related products. Both orders remain in effect.
Earlier this year, the department recommended that poultry owners reduce or eliminate their flocks’ contact with wild waterfowl and feral birds by keeping poultry indoors, thus preventing exposure to migratory birds that could transmit HPAI. With the arrival of warmer summer temperatures, that guidance has been lifted.
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