Quakertown, PA

Bird Flu Finally Landing

Gregory Vellner

A young chicklet.Unsplash

QUAKERTOWN, Pa. – At farms and markets everywhere, talk now is that the end is near – the conclusion, that is, of an avian influenza outbreak that over the past three months has killed four million chickens and ducks.

“We’re holding our breath,” said Allison Bartasek, customer service manager, Moyer’s Chicks in Quakertown, a chicken farm and hatchery serving small and large poultry operators across the country. “Absolutely waiting.”

It was much the same feeling at other farmer’s markets – coming at a time when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) this week said an unusual number of seals are becoming stranded or dying in Maine due to avian influenza. The USDA was notifying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as state officials, about the finding.

Closer to home, the big news in Pennsylvania focused on bird flu status.

Some three months after the highly pathogenic bird flu broke out in Lancaster County, Pa., there now are indications the deadly virus might be coming to a close, say agriculture officials.

Pennsylvania could be declared free of avian influenza by late July or early August, according to the USDA, which says a state is free 28 days after the last infected farm completes internal cleaning and disinfection.

“There have been no positive infections in Pennsylvania recently,” said Shannon Powers, press secretary, Pennsylvania Agriculture Department.

All but one of Pennsylvania’s 17 infected farms were to be cleared early this month, according to Dr. Kevin Brightbill, state veterinarian, who noted the remaining farm – a Lancaster County layer operation – is expected to be cleared mid-month. Pennsylvania and five other states are the remaining sites nationwide wrapping up final clearance zones, he said.

The bird flu outbreak in Pennsylvania, all on commercial farms, was reported April 15 to June 2, with millions depopulated by the virus representing 10 percent of the national industry.

“Pennsylvania is one of 36 states where commercial or backyard flocks have had confirmed infections,” said Powers.

She said “eggs and poultry are safe to eat” and products from infected flocks “are not in the marketplace.”

“While there have been no positive infections in Pennsylvania recently,” said Powers, “potential virus spread among wild birds, commercial and backyard flocks continue to threaten our poultry industry.”

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As a professional journalist for several years -- reporter, editor, feature writer, columnist -- I handled a range of subjects. Breaking news, investigative series, government action, feature events, and staff feature writer with national entertainment magazine interviewing stars including Tom Selleck, Mel Brooks and Danny DeVito. No matter the topic, certain ingredients are key: truth, facts, objectivity, balance.

Bucks County, PA

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