pastured poultry

Pennsylvania could be declared free of avian influenza by late July or early August.

The determination is an important step in recovering from this spring’s outbreak and reducing export barriers.

USDA can declare a state to be free of the highly pathogenic virus 28 days after the last infected farm completes internal cleaning and disinfection.

The Ag Department was working this week to make sure infected farms wrapped up that process, State Veterinarian Kevin Brightbill said Tuesday.

Control areas have been released for 11 of the state’s 17 infected farms, and all but one are scheduled to be released by July 6.

The last farm, a Lancaster layer operation, is expected to shed its control area on July 14 or 15, Brightbill said.

Pennsylvania and five Western states are the last places in the U.S. with active control areas — the zones with heightened testing and movement requirements for farms near infected sites.

Pennsylvania’s outbreaks, all on commercial farms, were reported April 15 to June 2 and led to the depopulation of 4 million chickens and ducks — 10% of losses nationwide.

The risk of new outbreaks is fairly low until the wild bird migration begins in autumn.

In the meantime, Brightbill said, poultry farmers should train their employees to make biosecurity part of their routines.

Farmers should also inspect their houses for places where wild animals could enter, such as fallen soffits, loose tin, rodent holes and wind-blown ridge vents. Brightbill said a number of infected farms had gaps in their biosecurity lapses that could have been prevented with building maintenance.

“Take care of those things now,” he said. “They can make a great difference when we are coming back into the fall at a time of higher risk.”

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