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As a sixth Lancaster County farm detects avian flu, officials step up prevention efforts

As of Wednesday, April 27, 3.8 million birds had been affected by avian influenza in Pennsylvania, according to USDA data.

EPHRATA, Pa. — As David Petroski unloads his chickens for auction, he’s not overly concerned about them catching avian flu; the small animal auction at Green Dragon Market in Ephrata always takes precautions like sanitizing between weekly events.

“The only way it would affect it is if they shut the auctions down, dealing with poultry,” said Petroski, who owns a small poultry farm in Juniata County.

Still, Green Dragon's auction house was visited by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials both Thursday and Friday, underscoring officials’ heightened concerns over the outbreak of avian flu in Lancaster County.

As of Wednesday, April 27, 3.8 million birds had been affected by avian influenza in Pennsylvania, according to USDA data.

The first cases, discovered at Kreider Farms in East Donegal Township, led to the loss of more than 1.4 million egg-laying hens.

A sixth farm tested positive for the virus on Wednesday. So far, all avian flu identified in Pennsylvania has been limited to commercial chicken flocks in Lancaster County.

State officials are now stepping up efforts to prevent further spread. Pennsylvania's Department of Agriculture said it was prepared to undergo extensive testing through its Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System. Made up of three animal health laboratories, the system analyzed nearly 200,000 samples for avian influenza last year.

The department has also ordered a quarantine control zone around all farms with positive cases.

“There are tight controls, including rigorous testing, on the transport of any poultry products in a control area that spans the 10 km around each of these farms," wrote department officials in a statement. "Samples from a 20km area around each farm are required of all poultry farms to detect any spread of the virus.”

More stringent sanitation is required within the control zone, such as mandated washing of trucks carrying poultry before entering a facility.

The lost birds and additional precautions could quickly add up financially for the $7.1 billion Pennsylvania poultry industry still recovering from the pandemic.

Farmers like David Petroski said, for poultry industry workers like him, the influenza only adds on more stress.

“It’s mother nature. I mean, it comes from the migratory ducks and geese, and it happens every year when you have the risk,” he said.  "But other than that, it’s part of the business.”

This is the first outbreak of avian flu in Pennsylvania since 1984.

If you suspect your poultry is infected with avian influenza, please report your concerns 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Animal Health and Diagnostic Services at 717-772-2852, option 1.

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