Laboratory tests confirmed highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in three additional states, Pennsylvania, Idaho and Utah, with losses in domestic flocks nearing 27.4 million birds, said the Agriculture Department. The first outbreak in Pennsylvania, at an egg farm in Lancaster County, was announced two days after the state banned poultry shows at county and local fairs for 60 days.
“High path” bird flu has been found in 29 states, from Maine to North Carolina and westward into the Rockies, since outbreaks began in early February. Idaho and Utah are the farthest west that HPAI has been found so far—in two backyard flocks in southern Idaho and in a backyard flock in Utah County, Utah, 45 miles south of Salt Lake City.
This year’s outbreaks are the first appearance of HPAI in two years and the worst since the 2014-15 epidemic that killed more than 50 million birds, mostly egg-laying hens and turkeys. The viral disease can wipe out a flock quickly so agricultural officials are ruthless in culling infected flocks in hopes of preventing the spread of the disease. Wild birds can spread HPAI through their droppings and it can be carried by contaminated vehicles, equipment and clothing.
“Anyone visiting a farm should be aware that your vehicles and shoes may carry the virus from other places you have walked,” said Pennsylvania state agriculture secretary Russell Redding. “Clean them thoroughly and stay away from poultry barns unless you have to be there. Please be vigilant and do your part to protect our farms.”
Pennsylvania has a bird flu fund of $2 million, said Redding, “in addition to equipment, supplies, laboratories and highly trained experts who have been on high alert and are supporting our poultry farmers.”
The outbreak on the egg farm in southeastern Pennsylvania is the 11th among egg-laying chickens this year. Egg farms have lost 18.7 million hens, the bulk of HPAI losses.
Outbreaks on 89 turkey farms have killed 3.8 million birds. HPAI also was found among 63 backyard flocks. Most involved small numbers of birds, but the largest was 22,000 “Backyard Mixed Species (poultry),,” in Cascade County, Montana, on April 7.
Bird flu has been found among backyard flocks, but not commercial flocks, in 13 of the 29 states with outbreaks; Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming.