While the Avian flu outbreak continues to grow in south-central Pennsylvania, for the very first time there are now flu-positive flocks in Berks County. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently stated that the two positive flocks were found at commercial duck farms in the area, more specifically a duck breeder and a duck livestock farm.
Beyond the Berks and Lancaster county areas, there are currently no other documented cases of the highly pathogenic avian influenza in any domesticated poultry birds. The initial discovery of the virus was on a Lancaster County egg farm last month, on April 15.
More generally speaking, Avian influenza has impacted millions of wild, commercial, and backyard fowl since mid-January. The virus is already forcing the price of eggs and poultry to increase. Processed eggs and powdered sugar in all kinds of foods has reached record highs and is increasing production costs for a lot of food brands.
How We Can Help Contain The Spread
The localized strain of the avian influenza found in and around Berks Country has been deemed highly pathogenic because of its high rate of contagiousness and lethality in poultry. While it takes proactive medical testing by professionals to really understand the spread and severity of this outbreak, as consumers we can help contain the spread with careful selection and prevention practices. Let’s take a closer look at how to stay careful, strategic, and preventative to help everyone stay healthy.
In humans, Bird flu infections usually happen after close, long, and unprotected (no gloves or other protective wear) contact with infected birds before the person then touches their mouth, eyes, or nose. The CDC recognizes that the best way to prevent avian (bird) influenza (flu) is to prevent or mitigate sources of exposure whenever you can. Positive birds shed the bird flu virus via their saliva, mucus, and feces. While people rarely get bird flu, human infections can happen when a large amount of the virus enters a person’s orifices, like your eyes, nose, or mouth. Preventing or reducing exposure ultimately reduces the risk of unintentionally spreading the virus to others.
Proper Poultry Cooking
Based on expertise from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the recent detections do not present a dire public health concern. No human cases of these avian influenza viruses have been detected in the nation. For peace of mind and to ensure healthy food, all poultry and eggs should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 ˚F as a recommended general food safety precaution. When visiting locations that we all frequent as consumers (like the grocery store) also avoid unprotected contact with raw poultry
Reporting Sick Birds or Unusual Bird Deaths
You may work in agriculture or even keep domesticated birds as pets, making it difficult not to expose yourself to more common risks. All bird owners should strive to prevent contact between their birds and wild birds. They should also do their best to report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either by contacting their state veterinarian or the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) at their toll-free number: 1-866-536-7593. APHIS recommends that owners and producers give serious thought to bringing birds indoors when possible to further prevent exposures. APHIS also provides compensation for disposal activities and virus elimination activities.
While containing the spread of the bird influenza is no easy task, with extra preventative help in the day-to-day activities of Berks County residents, we can all do our part. With focused consideration and attention to avoiding high-risk areas, using careful cooking standards, and practicing vigilant communication, we can all help avoid spreading the virus together.