A minor incident during this year’s peak migratory bird northward transit period has reminded local poultry farmers of biosecurity’s paramount importance.

During normal testing as part of the National Poultry Improvement Program (NPIP), samples were submitted of ducks being raised near the New Holland area of Lancaster County that tested positive for a non-H5, non-H7 variant of the avian flu.

There is no threat to humans from this strain (poultry carrying it can even be safely sold for human consumption), and moreover the birds were asymptomatic (suggesting the virus was latent, like chicken pox is in most American adults), but the incident is a good reminder of just how vital biosecurity is to protecting our region’s poultry populations. In the case of the New Holland ducks, bird flocks in proximity tested negative for the avian flu, confirming the incident was a truly localized issue.

The New Holland case was discussed this week by Penn State Extension’s Del Voight at the Northern Lebanon Rotary meeting. We caught up with his colleague, Penn State Extension Educator Dr. Gregory Martin, to learn more about the context of the incident.

The biosecurity threat is very high locally because in addition to being in the Atlantic Flyway, a migratory bird corridor, Lancaster and Lebanon County are among the top poultry producing counties in the state. Dr. Martin explains the migratory bird phenomenon as similar to the first week at summer camp—a key opportunity for someone to get sick. Biosecurity practices are motivated primarily by the types of avian flu that affect people, but all types come up in the standardized screening required by the NPIP.

During all seasons, poultry producers have to be mindful about allowing visitors, as well as having all people entering a facility to clean their hands and feet first. The threat is magnified when you have a Middle Creek sized snow geese population in the area. Goose poop in particular presents a threat to local poultry producers, given how easy it could be to track particles inside.

“There’s a lot of people who are raising poultry as a living, and they have to pay attention to good biosecurity,” said Dr. Martin. “Whether you have 3 birds or 3 million birds, it’s still the same risk.”

Here’s some more on biosecurity thanks to Penn State Extension.


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