Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Provides Guidance Regarding Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)

Avian influenza (AI), commonly known as “bird flu,” is caused by an influenza type A virus. Avian influenza viruses occur naturally in wild birds, especially waterfowl and shore or wading birds. Wild bird species (such as ducks and geese) can carry and spread Avian Influenza viruses without becoming ill. However, in recent months certain types of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza viruses have been affecting the wild waterfowl as well as domestic poultry species. Avian influenza in birds is very contagious and can cause serious disease and high mortality in domestic poultry such as chickens, quail, pheasants, guinea fowl and turkeys.

Current Status in Pennsylvania

For the current status of HPAI in Pennsylvania, please refer to our Control Area Address Checker.


Biosecurity is vital for anyone who owns or works with poultry – whether on a commercial farm, in the wild, or at a hobby/ backyard farm. You should take proper steps to keep Avian Influenza from infecting your flock or spreading to other flocks. The best way to protect your birds is to follow good biosecurity. Having a biosecurity plan in place, and following that plan daily, is vital to protect Pennsylvania’s poultry.

If you don’t already have your premises registered with the Department, please do so, and include current contact information. If you already have your premises registered with us, please make sure we have current contact information so we can reach you. Premise ID allows us to find your premises on a map in the event of a disease outbreak, and we can warn you if your flock is at risk due to a nearby infected flock.

Reporting Requirements

If you suspect that your flock is infected with Avian Influenza, please contact the Department at 717-772-2852 (24/7).

Sick or dead wild birds should be reported to the Pennsylvania Game Commission at 833-PGC-HUNT or

Subtypes of Avian Influenza

There are many different subtypes of influenza A viruses. These subtypes differ and are classified based on a combination of two groups of proteins on the surface of the influenza A virus: hemagglutinin or “H” proteins, of which there are 16 (H1-H16), and neuraminidase or “N” proteins, of which there are 9 (N1-N9). Many different combinations of “H” and “N” proteins are possible. Each combination is considered a different subtype, and can be further broken down into different strains. AI viruses are further classified by their pathogenicity—the ability of a particular virus strain to produce disease in domestic chickens. Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus strains are extremely infectious, often fatal to domestic poultry, and can spread rapidly from flock to flock. Low pathogenicity avian influenza (LPAI) virus strains occur naturally in wild migratory waterfowl and shorebirds, usually without causing illness.

The avian influenza viruses that cause concern in poultry and wild birds are HPAI viruses and any virus designated as H5 or H7, because H5 and H7 viruses have the capability to convert from LPAI to HPAI. HPAI is considered a notifiable avian influenza (NAI), and when found in a country, the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE) must be alerted.

HPAI for Producers : What to Expect (click to download)
HPAI for Producers with small flocks : What to Expect (click to download)

Submission of Samples for Detection of Avian Influenza (AI)

If you have a flock you suspect is infected with HPAI, please immediately call the PDA Emergency Line at 717-772-2852, option 1.
Sick or Wild birds should be reported to the Pennsylvania Game Commission at 833-PGC-HUNT or

Sampling of suspect flocks requires more samples than collected for movement or weekly surveillance purposes.
  • For suspect chicken, turkey, or game bird flocks, 30 tracheal or oropharyngeal swab samples from each house with birds showing clinical signs of HPAI are required.
  • For suspect waterfowl flocks, 35 cloacal swab samples from each house with birds showing clinical signs of HPAI are required.
  • Always prioritize swabbing fresh mortality first, then sick birds, and then healthy birds to get the correct number of samples. It is recommended to submit swabs from healthy birds in tubes separate from swabs from dead and sick birds, which can be combined.
  • It is not necessary to sample unaffected houses as historically virus has been identified in dead and sick birds.

PADLS recommends submission of the following avian samples to the laboratories for rapid detection of HPAI using PCR:

Source Preferred Specimen* Collection
Gallinaceous poultry (chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail) Tracheal (T)/oropharyngeal swabs (O) 1 swab per bird from a single flock and species, maximum of 11 swabs pooled in 1 BHI broth tube
Swabs should be immersed in media, swirled, squeezed on the upper inside walls of tube, and then discarded as a biohazard waste.
Note: For testing in the control area and surveillance zone, 2 tubes (22 swabs) are required. Do not mix swabs from more then one species in a tube.
Domestic waterfowl Cloacal (C) swab 1 swab per bird from a single flock and species, maximum of 5 swabs pooled in 1 BHI broth tube
Leaving swabs in the tube, no more than 5 swabs per tube are acceptable. All swab tips must be completely immersed in the medium.
Note: For testing in the control area and surveillance zone, 7 tubes (35 swabs) are required. Do not mix swabs from more than one species in a tube.
Wild birds C and T/O swab 1 swab from each site (1 C and 1 T/O) from a single bird pooled in 1 BHI broth tube

*Polyester (Dacron), rayon or other inert swabs must be used. Do not use cotton or calcium alginate swabs or swabs with wooden shafts.

Media (5.5 mL) and swabs are available from the laboratories.

Laboratory Submission:

  • Download HPAI Submission Forms
  • Please complete ALL sections of the Avian Submission form
  • Required information includes:
    • Owner and Sample collector – name, address, telephone, fax, email
    • Premise ID and address
    • Collection and submission dates
    • Production type (backyard, commercial, etc.) and number(s) of birds on premises
    • Species and age
    • Sample type (C and/or T/O)

PDA HPAI Sampling and Submitting Instructions (click to download)

For questions or to discuss on-farm mortality issues, please contact either the laboratories (contact information above) or the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal Health at 717-772-2852, option 1 (available 24x7).

HPAI Temporary Sample Drop-off Sites

Note: There are currently no HPAI drop-off locations being operated.

HPAI Lab Weekend Schedule

Effective January 19, 2024, weekend testing is no longer be available except for approved emergency sick bird calls. The PADLS emergency testing for sick birds must be authorized by BAHDS (call 717-772-2852, option 1). Please do not bring samples for HPAI testing to any PADLS lab on a weekend or holiday without prior authorization and instructions.

Sick or dead wild birds should be reported to the Pennsylvania Game Commission at 833-PGC-HUNT or


Approved biosecurity plans are required for consideration for indemnity if a flock is lost due to AI. Approved plans are also required for flocks of all sizes for a movement permit to be granted. Biosecurity plans for flock premises must be submitted in the NPIP Program Standard E-format.

Practicing biosecurity means you are doing everything to reduce the chances of infectious disease being carried onto your farm by people, animals, equipment, or vehicles. This also means you are being diligent to reduce the chance of disease leaving your farm. Healthy flocks contribute to the health of U.S. animal agriculture as a whole.

Greatest Risks:

An important first step is to identify the greatest risks for introducing disease to your farm.

  1. On the farm, one of the greatest risks comes from introducing new animals onto your premise, commingling or exposing your flock to other animals. This is a common way to introduce new disease-causing organisms. As a rule of thumb, new animals should be segregated for 30 days.
  2. Farm visitors pose a risk, especially if they have been on other farms with poultry or have recently been in other countries with diseases exotic to the U.S.
  3. Farm equipment that has been in contact with manure can be a source of infection. Equipment should not be shared with other farms unless it has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before it reaches your property.

Common Sense Biosecurity Measures You Can Follow:

Protect your birds with basic tips to prevent animal disease outbreaks:

  1. Keep Your Distance - Restrict access to your property and poultry, or post a biosecurity sign. Have a specific area where visitors can enter. Visitors should not be allowed near poultry unless absolutely necessary, and then visitors should be wearing clean footwear (disposable boots work well) and clothes (supply for them). An area should be available for visitors to change clothes and provide shower-in, shower-out facilities if possible. Require and teach biosecurity to family, employees, and all visitors coming into, or involved with your poultry production area.
  2. Keep It Clean - You, your staff and family should always follow biosecurity procedures for cleanliness. Wear clean clothes, scrub boots/shoes with disinfectant and wash hands thoroughly. Equipment and vehicles should be kept clean and insist all equipment and vehicles should be cleaned before entering property. Maintain programs to control birds and rodents who can carry and spread disease.
  3. Don't Haul Disease Home - If you, your employees or family have been on other farms, or other places where there is livestock and/or poultry, clean and disinfect your vehicle tires and equipment before returning home. Always change clothes and wash hands before returning to your flock.
  4. Don't Borrow Disease From Your Neighbor - Do Not share equipment, tools, or other supplies with your neighbors of other livestock or poultry owners. If sharing equipment, be sure to clean and disinfect before returning to your property.
  5. Look for Signs of Infectious Diseases - Know what diseases are of concern for your flock and be on the lookout for unusual signs of behavior, severe illness and/or sudden deaths. Assess the health of your flock daily. Early detection is important to prevent the spread of disease.
  6. Report Sick Animals - Don't wait. Report serious or unusual animal health problems to your veterinarian, local extension office, or State or Federal Animal Health officials. USDA operates a toll-free hotline (1-866-536-7593) with veterinarians to help you.

Precautions for Free Range Poultry

Poultry producers who raise birds in outdoor, non-confinement systems should prevent contact with wild birds and wild bird droppings. Protective measures include:

  1. Identify high risk areas, including wetlands along migratory flyways or other areas where wild waterfowl or shorebirds congregate, and high density poultry production areas.
  2. Implement preventive measures for high-risk areas:
    1. Keep birds indoors.
    2. Restrict outside open access by maintaining outdoor enclosures covered with solid roofs and wire mesh or netted sides.
    3. Keep outdoor enclosures covered with wire mesh or netting in lower risk areas.
    4. Provide feed and water for all non-confinement-raised poultry in an indoor area. Birds should not be allowed access to surface water that could potentially transmit AI or other avian pathogens through contamination with wild bird excrement.

Look for Signs of Disease

It is important for producers to know the warning signs of diseases such as avian influenza (AI). If you know the signs, you may be able to tell if something is wrong. Early detection helps prevent the spread of disease. Look for these signs:

  1. Sudden increase in bird deaths in your flock
  2. Sneezing, gasping for air, coughing, and/or runny nose
  3. Watery and green diarrhea
  4. Lack of energy and poor appetite
  5. Drop in egg production or soft or thin-shelled, misshapen eggs
  6. Swelling around the eyes, neck, and head
  7. Purple discoloration of the wattles, combs and legs

If you suspect your birds may have AI, don't wait - Report It! The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) has a 24-hours-a-day number you can call to report: 717-772-2852.

(Source: USDA APHIS website)

Additional information can be found at the USDA APHIS Defend the Flock Program.

Biosecurity Links


For permitting questions call (223) 666-2555. For fastest response, leave a message including your contact info, or email RA-AG-PAPERMITS@PA.GOV

What is HPAI

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) is a serious disease of poultry and is caused by a highly contagious virus. The detection of HPAI requires rapid elimination of the virus because it is often fatal to poultry species. HPAI in poultry is reportable to the World Organization for Animal Health and may have serious negative effects for the export of poultry products. The goal of response is to quickly contain and eradicate the disease, protecting our poultry industry, and in turn, our nation’s food supply.

Response to HPAI

The Department responds to all reports of Avian Influenza in Pennsylvania. After HPAI is identified, quarantines are placed to control movement to prevent the transmission of virus from the infected premises.

Control Areas

When a quarantine control area of at least 10 kilometers surrounds the infected flock, any movement related to poultry, poultry products and by-products, and manure will be by permit only. Permitting allows premises to make necessary movements while limiting the risk of disease spread.

Please use the Control Area Address Checker to determine if your movement (origin and destination) requires a permit.


  • The Department will use the USDA Emergency Management Response System 2.0 (EMRS2) for permitted movements into, within, between, and out of the HPAI Control Area(s). Access to EMRS2 through the "gateway" during an outbreak will be granted on an as-needed basis for companies affected by a control area. In preparation for requesting permits, all current poultry premises information should be provided to RA-AG-PAPERMITS@PA.GOV for entry into EMRS2 before an outbreak so permits can be requested and processed efficiently. The spreadsheet for providing your premises to EMRS2 is available here, EMRS2 Premises Template.
  • If premises information changes, reach out to RA-AG-PAPERMITS@PA.GOV to provide the update.
  • Movements into other states. PDA encourages outreach to the destination state in advance of the permit request to determine that states requirements. State contacts are available here, State Animal Health Officials (
  • Movements to other countries. Company needs to cehck against the Veterinary Services export website, USDA APHIS | Animal and Animal Product Export Information
  • Items not needing Permits
    • Feed
    • Washed and Sanitized Eggs, unless being moved to another state that requires permitted movements.
    • Clean litter/shavings
    • Offal
      • Slaughter plants in control areas should ensure that vehicle undercarriage is disinfected upon departure. The slaughter plant should retain such movements in case needed by incident.

How to get a permit without EMRS2 Gateway access

All companies are now encouraged to use the EMRS2 Gateway to request permits as this will provide the quickest processing time. If you are unable to access the EMRS2 Gateway, you need to use the online PDA Permit Request Application webform or call (223) 666-2255.

What is the SPS and how is it used to help process permit applications

The Secure Poultry Supply (SPS) Plan for continuity of business provides guidelines for permitted movement of pooultry, poultry products, by-products, and manure from or to flocks which are located in a control area. Components of the SPS plan includes biosecurity and record keeping requirements and testing recommendations to move birds or eggs under a permit. The SPS plan can be broken down into the Secure Egg Supply Plan, the Secure Turkey Supply Plan, the Secure Broiler Supply Plan, and the Secure Upland Game Bird Supply Plan. These plans provide specific guidance for each of these sectors. Available here Moving Poultry and Poultry Products | SECURE POULTRY SUPPLY (

What is needed to get a movement permit

All permit request applications for the movement of poultry, poultry products, and manure must include a biosecurity plan in the format of the NPIP Standard E approved by PDA or the applicable signed SPS permit guidance document. Premises that have flock sizes over the number in the table below must have a PDA approve written biosecurity plan meeting the NPIP standard E requirements. Biosecurity plans should be submitted for evaluation proactively before an outbreak occurs.

Bird Type Number of Birds
Egg Layers (including Pullets) 75,000 birds on premises or more
Broilers Raise 100,000/year or more
Turkeys Raise 30,000/year or more
Upland Game Birds Raise 25,000/year or more
Breeder Flocks (all species) 5,000 birds on premises or more
Waterfowl Any size

You can find permitting requirements here. If the poultry product is not included please reach out to RA-AG-PAPERMITS@PA.GOV for further assistance.

Pennsylvania Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) FAQs

What is an HPAI Control Area?

HPAI Control Area Overview

What does it mean when a Control Area is released?

A Control Area is established when HPAI is detected in poultry, and it is released when certain conditions are met. Poultry on farms that are not under quarantine and are located outside the remaining Control Areas are no longer subject to movement controls and surveillance testing activities. When a Control Area is released, Pennsylvania producers should check the Control Area Address Checker to determine if a particular address is still within a Control Area.

Which Control Area(s) have been released?

Information on the Control Areas that have been released and those that remain active can be found on the APHIS HPAI 2022 Confirmed Detections website. It’s important to note that Control Areas associated with neighboring infected farms may overlap with a released Control Area. Any farms located within the overlapping Control Areas are still subject to restrictions until the status changes. You can check the Control Area Address Checker to determine if a particular address is still subject to restrictions.

Can farms that are now outside a Control Area resume normal farming practices?

Farms that are outside a Control Area are not subject to movement controls and surveillance testing activities unless they are under quarantine. However, all farms, regardless of location, should continue to implement strict biosecurity procedures to help keep birds healthy and stop the spread of HPAI.

Can birds be restocked at infected premises that were within the released Control Area?

Not yet. Before birds can be restocked, the infected premises must meet all requirements of the flock plan, including quarantine release and negative results on environmental testing. They must also be outside the infected zone of another flock.

What does it take to get a Control Area released?

To be released, all infected premises within the Control Area must have completed 100% depopulation and disposal of birds, feed, litter/manure, and eggs in accordance with the flock plan. Initial virus elimination and surveillance testing must also take place. If there are no positive results on surveillance within the Control Area for 14 days after depopulation and virus elimination, the Control Area can be released.


As we learn more about HPAI as it spreads across North America, PDA and its partners have developed webpages, brochures, letters, and other materials to address the needs and questions of all involved in Pennsylvania’s poultry industry.

Other States’ HPAI Pages

Those with domesticated poultry affected by HPAI:

Pennsylvania’s Neighboring States:

USDA Resources:

Additional Resources: