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Poultry industry, wildlife experts on high alert after bird flu confirmed in Pennsylvania

The case was confirmed in a bald eagle found dead in Chester County in late March.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Late last month, a case of avian influenza was confirmed in a bald eagle found dead in Chester County.

It’s the first confirmed case in Pennsylvania since a costly outbreak in the 1980s.

“We’ve been watching this since the end of last year and it’s been progressing across the entire world if you think about it,” Dr. Gregory Martin, extension educator at Penn State Extension, said. 

Dr. Martin says the news is particularly concerning, as eagles sit at the top of the food chain.

“That bird probably ate a sick duck or sick waterfowl and passed,” Dr. Martin said. 

While domestic birds have yet to be infected in the Commonwealth, the outbreak has hit both wild and domestic birds in over 20 states so far. It has the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture on high alert.

The Department’s press secretary, Shannon Powers, says they are ready to protect Pennsylvania’s $7.1 billion poultry industry.

“That’s how much it feeds into our economy every year, it’s a huge industry," Powers said. “It represents more than 26,000 jobs around the state so it’s a very important industry.”

As wild birds migrate through the spring, the fear is they could fly over poultry farms and spread the disease.

“They don’t recognize boundaries, they fly over,” Powers said. “Their droppings basically are everywhere and that’s the risk.”

That’s why farmers are being asked to ramp up biosecurity measures.

“Keep that infectious material off your clothing, off your boots and stay away from poultry areas," Powers said. "Farmers keep their birds indoors as much as possible." 

Experts say while humans can spread the disease through those kinds of contamination, there is no risk to our health. As long as we prepare and cook our poultry and eggs correctly, our food will remain safe too.

To read more about the case of avian influenza confirmed in Pennsylvania, click here

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