A Lancaster County commercial poultry farm hit by the bird flu outbreak last month was officially declared virus-free last week by federal agriculture officials.
The farm is one of eight poultry operations in the county to have a flock infected with the virus, which has been spreading across the country since winter.
The farm’s virus-free status does not mean it can resume operations, state Department of Agriculture officials say.
The restrictions, including a temporary ban on restocking the birds, remain in place until outbreaks in other nearby flocks are also fully eliminated, department spokeswoman Meredith Noll said.
“The farm is located in an infected area for neighboring positive farms,” she said, referring to the newly liberated property, which is in at least one of the quarantine-like control areas that surround others. infected properties.
“He will have to follow the protocols of the infected areas until the infected control areas are released,” she said, later adding that “this includes not restocking the birds.”
State and federal agriculture officials declined to provide exact addresses of farms where the virus was detected, citing farmers’ right to privacy, as well as a desire to avoid attracting attention. additional charge on properties as long as they remain contaminated with a highly contagious virus.
The outbreak in the now virus-free farm was first confirmed on April 22, according to officials from the United States Department of Agriculture. The virus has affected 50,300 birds at the commercial broiler facility. All birds that did not die from the virus were depopulated, another term for euthanized, in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.
The depopulation is part of a planned response to bird flu outbreaks, which begins with establishing a 10 kilometer (6.2 mile) control zone around an infected property, according to the USDA. Within this zone, movement of poultry and related products is restricted and neighboring commercial flocks are subject to much greater scrutiny.
Once an infected flock is depopulated, dead birds must be properly disposed of and facilities must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Government compensation programs exist to cover at least some of the cost of lost birds and cleanup efforts.
Farms that successfully complete this process can be released and declared virus-free, after which operators can usually begin restocking the birds, according to a USDA brochure.
But that’s not the case for the Lancaster County farm, which was released by the USDA on May 12. The farm’s proximity to other infected sites, at least some of which have overlapping control areas, means the birds cannot be repopulated.
The virus, which is often fatal in poultry, is spread when healthy birds come into contact with the bodily fluids of infected wild or domestic birds. It can also spread on contaminated clothing or equipment, including shoes and vehicles, worn and used by people.
So a return to normalcy at the newly liberated Lancaster County farm depends on its infected neighbors being able to clean their properties of the virus as well, according to Chris Herr, executive vice president of the PennAg Industries Association.
It’s hard to say exactly how long the cleanup process will take for each of Lancaster County’s infected properties, which all have site-specific plans to properly eradicate flocks, dispose of carcasses, and disinfect facilities and equipment. Herr said.
This procedure is described by USDA officials in an information sheet put online.
“First, all organic matter is removed. Then all areas and items are thoroughly washed with detergent, rinsed and allowed to dry,” it reads. “Next, a disinfectant is applied and allowed to remain wet on the surfaces for the contact time specified on the label. After the contact time, the surfaces are again rinsed and allowed to air dry. These processes help eliminate any remaining virus.
These steps are necessary in all infected sanitary facilities, regardless of type, size or location, Noll said.
“To be released, the farm must have completed 100% depopulation and removal of birds, feed, bedding/manure and eggs… Initial virus removal and surveillance testing must also take place. If there are no positive surveillance results in the control area for 14 days after depopulation and virus clearance and all other requirements are met, the control area can be released,” a- she said in an email.
Earlier this month, Noll shared information on how the depopulation process was carried out on seven of the eight infected poultry farms in Lancaster County. In the majority of these cases, the method of depopulation was VSD+, an acronym used to refer to the process of stopping the ventilation of poultry buildings and adding heat to kill the birds. In at least one case, local birds were killed by foaming – covering poultry at ground level with a water-based foam to suffocate them.
“Both methods require the use of strict protocols. Subject matter experts are on hand for the entire process to ensure it is done correctly, quickly and humanely,” Noll said.
In most, if not all, cases, bird carcasses on infected farms were then composted — a process of layering carcasses and organic material, such as wood shavings, to create controlled decomposition, according to a carrier. USDA word.
On the newly liberated Lancaster County property, farm-specific conditions were conducive to the process being completed quickly, Herr said. Other affected farms have more complicated arrangements, meaning it will likely take longer for farmers to secure release, he said.
The recently liberated Lancaster County farm was not the first infected in the county.
Since mid-April, the virus has infected 15 commercial poultry flocks in Pennsylvania – the other seven in Berks County – affecting 4,243,400 birds, a combination of ducks and chickens, both layers and broilers, according to the USDA.
The local cases are part of a larger outbreak that has infected 338 commercial or domesticated backyard flocks in 35 states, affecting 37.95 million birds, according to the USDA.
In rare cases, humans have contracted bird flu, but experts including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said this outbreak poses a low risk to people.