Check your chickens for deadly flu, extension director says

Avian flu on Eastern flyway but not yet in Pennsylvania, says Dave Messersmith


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  • Dave Messersmith, Pike County's Penn State Extension's Interim District Director (Photo by Anya Tikka



By Anya Tikka

— Avian influenza, a highly infectious disease that affects domestic chickens and turkey, has been identified recently in Tennessee, said Penn State Extension’s Interim District Director Dave Messersmith at Pike County Commissioners’ early May meeting.

“It’s not very close, but it’s a disease that’s very mobile, so it can move very quickly from one bird to another," he said.

He cautioned anyone who keeps domestic fowl to keep an eye on them for any signs of disease or possible deaths, and to report them to the Extension or the Department of Agriculture "so we can figure out what’s going on with a follow up.”

The disease doesn’t spread to people or other animals, said Messersmith.

The "bird flu," he said, is very contagious from bird to bird, and wild migratory birds can also spread it, carrying the disease although not necessary sick themselves.

“When they land intermittently, there’s a chance they mingle with domestic chickens or turkeys, and they can leave their droppings," he said. "It’s highly infectious disease, so even a small amount of contact can spread it. If they’re infected, they can spread it up and down as they migrate.”

The disease is limited to wild fowl — ducks and geese, not raptors, he said. But once a bird is infected, there’s no cure. Birds will die from it.

Nothing has been found in the United States this year except in Tennessee, indicating the disease is traveling on the Eastern flyway.

“In Pennsylvania, it’s a threat to the poultry industry, a big industry in Pennsylvania, while not necessarily in Pike County," Messersmith said. "But there are a lot of people who have backyard chickens, so the concern is for them to continue to monitor your flock, if birds are getting sick or dying, to notify us or the Department of Agriculture.”

Messersmith said the disease has been a concern in U.S. for a couple of years.

“It’s proven it doesn’t affect people or other animals, so there’s no concern for that,” he said.

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