Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding recently updated the public opinion on the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreak that is affecting some Pennsylvania chicken farms, and gave tips about what consumers should know about the issue.
The first and most important thing is that Redding assured Pennsylvanians chicken and other poultry products remain safe to eat.
“While we’re very concerned about the threat this avian influenza outbreak is to Pennsylvania’s $7.1 billion poultry industry, food safety and availability is not something to worry about,” said Redding. “We encourage everyone in Pennsylvania to move forward with normal buying, cooking, and eating habits.”
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these avian influenza detections do not constitute an immediate public health hazard. In fact, there have been no human cases of avian influenza viruses discovered in the United States.
Poultry and eggs are safe to eat if they are stored and cooked at the correct temperatures.
Current status of HPAI in the tristate area
The US Department of Agriculture has dispatched response teams to Pennsylvania to work with the state on a coordinated response to preserve the state’s chicken business in the midst of the national outbreak.
In Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, there have been three affected commercial flocks, zero affected backyard flocks, and a total of 3,450,100 birds infected as of April 20.
According to the Department of Agriculture, the outbreak has affected four commercial flocks, zero backyard flocks, and a total of 3,500,400 birds in Pennsylvania, while it has affected three commercial flocks, zero backyard flocks, and a total of 1,438,600 birds in Delaware as of April 22.
New Jersey has not been affected in this outbreak.
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A focus on Pennsylvania
To safeguard their flocks from this highly contagious and lethal disease, both commercial poultry farms and Pennsylvanians with backyard hens should be on high alert. Avian influenza is most common in domestic poultry, such as chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea fowl, quail, pheasants, emus, and ostriches.
State reccomends that, if people have domestic birds, they should call the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture at 717-772-2852 option 1 to report sick domestic birds or odd fatalities in their flock. The line is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
According to a report from 2021, the chicken business in Pennsylvania contributes $7.1 billion to the state’s economy and employs 26,200 people. Pennsylvania is fourth in the US for chicken production and first for organic poultry and egg sales.
Food safety and avian influenza
Because of the high frequency of testing in facilities, the chances of sick poultry entering the food chain are quite low. On HPAI response, the agency collaborates with the US Department of Agriculture to guarantee diseased birds do not enter the supply chain.
From farm to shop, all poultry products for public consumption are scrutinized for signs of disease at several locations.
Properly prepared and cooked poultry and eggs are always safe to eat, and appropriate cooking of poultry products protects against viruses and germs, including avian influenza.
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