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

On April 16, 2022, USDA announced that Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza has been detected on a commercial farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is implementing testing and reporting requirements in order to control the threat.

Prevention

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).

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.

Submission of Samples for Detection of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)


Guidelines for Submitting HPAI Specimens to PADLS laboratories:

Weekend Lab Drop-Off Hours:

PADLS is transitioning to normal operating hours with regards to the HPAI response. Starting the first two weeks in July, only PVL and New Bolton Center will be open for HPAI samples on the dates below. If dropping off, please be sure that the lab is open on that day, and have your samples dropped off by 11:30 am.
  • PVL will be open: July 2nd and July 9th
  • New Bolton Center will be opem: July 3rd and July 10th
  • All laboratories will be closed July 4th

HPAI Temporary Sample Drop-off Sites

Location Address Hours
Southwest Lloyd H. Fuhrman Memorial Park
110 Rock Point Road
Marietta, PA
Monday – Friday
8 am – 10 am for Same Day Testing
Berks County Sara Kerr Zook Building Parking Lot
27 Rehrersburg Road
Bethel, PA
Monday – Friday
8 am – 10 am for Same Day Testing

Printable HPAI Submission Form and instructions:

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


*Please check here for the latest requirements on the number of samples/pools to submit.

Source Preferred Specimen* Collection
Gallinaceous poultry (chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail) Tracheal (TR)/oropharyngeal swabs (OP) 1 swab per bird from a single flock and species, maximum of 11 swabs pooled in 1 BHI broth tube (5.5 mL). When pooling 11 swabs, all swabs must be removed from the tube. See below for further instructions.
Domestic waterfowl Cloacal (CL) swab 1 swab per bird from a single flock and species, maximum of 5 swabs pooled in 1 BHI broth tube UNLESS a total of 11 swabs is required. Then a maximum of 6 swabs pooled in 1 BHI broth tube is allowed. If 11 swabs are required, use 1 BHI broth tube with 5 pooled swabs and a 2nd BHI broth tube with 6 swabs swirled around, pressed against the side of the tube and then discard the swabs from that tube.
Wild birds CL and TR/OP swab 1 swab from each site (1 CL and 1 TR/OP) from a single bird pooled in 1 BHI broth tube (1 bird sample set/1 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 or can be purchased directly through commercial vendors.

For samples of 11 swabs from gallinaceous birds (chickens, turkeys, game birds), the swabs cannot be left in the BHI broth tube. After each bird is swabbed, add the swab to the tube. After 5 swabs (from 5 birds) have been added to the tube, swirl them around in the broth, then press the swab ends up against the side of the tube as you pull them out to get as much of the liquid to stay in the tube as possible and discard the swabs. Then collect 6 more swabs from 6 more birds, adding them one at a time to the tube and then swirl those swabs around in the broth, press the swab ends up against the side of the tube as you pull them out and discard those swabs too. You will be left with a tube that has just broth in it —no swabs.



For samples of 5 swabs or fewer in a tube, the swab tips can be broken off into the broth, but it is important to make sure all of the swab tips are in the broth—not stuck higher in the tube where they will dry out.

Dry swabs are not accepted for AI testing.

Samples must arrive at the lab soon after collection (no more than 4 days at the most after they are collected!) and must be kept refrigerated (4℃ / 39℉) or chilled in a cooler with ice packs until they reach the lab. Please avoid freezing the samples.

Laboratory Submission:

  • Please complete ALL sections of the Avian Submission form or HPAI submission form
  • Required information includes:
    • Owner and Sample collector – name, address, telephone, fax, email
    • Premise ID and address where the birds are located
    • Collection (when the birds were swabbed) and submission dates (when the samples got to the lab)
    • Production type (backyard, commercial, etc.) and number(s) of birds on premises
    • Species and age
    • Sample type (CL and/or TR/OP)
    • Purpose of test

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.

For additional resources on sample collection guidancex: Click Here

Biosecurity

Avian Influenza (AI) is currently infecting poultry in Pennsylvania and neighboring states including New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland and Delaware. Biosecurity is the greatest way to ensure your farm and poultry are safeguarded against disease.
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.

To receive a permit for movement of poultry materials such as birds, eggs, feed, and manure into, within, or out of an HPAI Control Area, an approved biosecurity plan is required. Additional information about permitting requirements including who needs a biosecurity plan can be found here.

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

Permitting

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 immediately to all reports of Avian Influenza in Pennsylvania. After HPAI (or any H5 or H7 subtypes of the virus in poultry) is identified, quarantines are placed to control movement to prevent the transmission of virus from infected premises to non-infected premises.

Control Areas

A quarantine control area will encompass an infected flock and surrounding flocks within a minimum of a 10 kilometer area. Any movement associated with that control area related to poultry, poultry products, manure, feed, and other related items will be by permit only. Permitting allows premises to make necessary movements without creating an unacceptable risk of disease spread.

Please use the Control Zone Address Checker to determine if your movement (origin and destination) includes a control zone.

Control Areas are released after certain conditions are met. When a Control Area is released, the map in the Control Zone Address Checker will be updated. Frequently asked questions regarding what a Control Area release means can be found in the FAQ tab.

Permits

The Department will use the USDA Emergency Management Response System 2.0 (EMRS2) for permitting movements associated with a control area. EMRS2 is used for permits and permitted movements made into, within, 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 producers located within a control area and access should be requested through Dr. Kellie Hough (kellie.a.hough@usda.gov). In preparation for requesting permits, all poultry premises should be provided to Dr. Hough for entry into EMRS before an outbreak so permits can be requested and processed quickly when needed. The spreadsheet for providing your premises to EMRS, along with introductory materials for a control area, permitting and the Gateway, are available here.

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 log into the EMRS2 Gateway or if you are a company solely involved in the movement of feed or manure, you may still use the online PDA PERMIT APPLICATION TO MOVE – POULTRY, EGGS & OTHER PRODUCTS form. You can attach your supporting documents by choosing the "attach a file" option at the bottom of this form. The Secure Poultry Supply (SPS) Plan for Continuity of Business provides guidelines for permitting movement of poultry and poultry products from flocks which are located in a Control Area, are clinically healthy, and are proven to be not infected with Avian Influenza. The guidelines for permitting are designed to allow continuity of business while effectively managing the risk of virus spread.

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

Components of the SPS plan include approved biosecurity plans, surveillance testing, and risk assessments of flocks for which a movement permit for birds or eggs is requested. The Secure Poultry Supply 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 and refer to the NPIP Standard E as a biosecurity plan template. Biosecurity plans must have been evaluated and approved by PDA within the two years prior to the permit request.

What is needed to get a movement permit

All permit applications for the movement of poultry or poultry products must include a biosecurity plan in the format of the NPIP Standard E for consideration. Plans must be evaluated by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) and a completed plan evaluation form will be provided to the applicant. Both the biosecurity plan and the completed and approved evaluation form should be submitted to PDA through the Gateway or, if not using the Gateway, through the online PDA PERMIT APPLICATION TO MOVE – POULTRY, EGGS & OTHER PRODUCTS form. Plans should be submitted for evaluation proactively before an outbreak occurs. Permit applications for feed, litter, and other product movements should also include an approved biosecurity plan and evaluation, using the NPIP Standard E format. For numbered items on the template which are not applicable to these movements, simply mark those items as “N/A”. For example, a feed company plan could mark N/A next to # 8 on the template, which addresses Mortality Disposal.

If testing is required for the movement, the permit application supporting documentation must include proof of testing/test results in addition to a biosecurity plan and approved biosecurity plan evaluation.

You can find permitting requirements here.

Pennsylvania Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) FAQs

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 Zone 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 Zone 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.

Resources

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: