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Bradford, PA 16701
Phone: 814-362-4400
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Coudersport, PA 16915
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Kane, PA 16735
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Harrisburg, PA 17120-2067
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Ag Committees Hear Update on State Preparedness for Avian Influenza, Causer Says
PENNSYLVANIA FURNACE – Pennsylvania is “ahead of the curve” in its preparations for the potential arrival of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) but there is still work to be done, members of a joint House-Senate panel learned Wednesday.

Rep. Martin Causer (R-Turtlepoint), chairman of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, along with Sen. Elder Vogel (R- Beaver/Butler/Lawrence), chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, convened an informational meeting during the state’s Ag Progress Days event in Centre County to hear an update from state agriculture leaders about ongoing preparedness efforts.

“The cooperation and coordination taking place among various elements of the poultry industry are impressive and encouraging,” Causer said. “It is important to continue the dialogue to ensure poultry operations of all sizes, as well as the public, are aware of this threat and take all possible steps to protect against it.”

Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding told members the state has been fortunate so far in dodging the virus, “but when birds begin migrating again this fall, we can’t say with certainty that we will continue to be so lucky.

“We continue to plan and act as if the virus could appear in Pennsylvania at any moment.”

Nonetheless, Redding said, he believes Pennsylvania is ahead of the curve in its planning, largely because of the work of an HPAI task force, which was formed in the spring and includes the Department of Agriculture, PennAg Industries, poultry industry officials and academia. The task force has been working on a variety of preparation and response strategies, including everything from outreach and awareness to the use of vaccines and depopulation strategies.

An ongoing area of concern referenced by several people appearing before the committee is the growing number of people with “backyard poultry.” Many of those operations are unknown and therefore not a part of state surveillance and monitoring programs.

The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine has been working to identify those operations by providing information to veterinary practices across the state that treat poultry and by tracking small flock owners who have submitted samples to the Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System (PADLS), said Dr. Sherrill Davison, associate professor and director of the laboratory of avian medicine and pathology at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center.

Davison also noted the university’s work with a manufacturer of bird repellants, which may serve as another tool to help prevent wild waterfowl and other potential carriers of the virus from coming into contact with poultry and spreading the virus to them.

“We must continue to prepare, remain vigilant in our surveillance activities and be ready to act when the virus is detected in the Commonwealth,” Davison said. “We are really working hard to get our plans in place.”

Also appearing before the committees were: Chris Herr, vice president of PennAg Industries; Brian Snyder, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture; Dr. Craig Shultz, state veterinarian and director of the Bureau of Animal Health and Diagnostic Services in the state Department of Agriculture; and Dr. Richard Roush, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State University.

HPAI has been detected in nearly two dozen states, mostly in the upper Midwest. To date, more than 220 flocks have been infected, killing approximately 50 million birds.

Pennsylvania last dealt with HPAI in the mid-1980s when 17 million birds died and the economy suffered a $65 million loss. Since that time, the state has had an extensive surveillance program in place for avian influenza.

Pennsylvania’s poultry industry consists of more than 11,000 flocks of birds, more than $1 billion in sales, billions more in related economic activity and wages, and more than 53,000 jobs.

For additional information about HPAI, visit and click on the “Avian Flu Update” banner.

Representative Martin T. Causer
67th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Patricia A. Hippler
717.772.9846 /
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