Pa. requires new avian flu testing

    Pennsylvania has passed new rules to prevent the spread of avian influenza to Keystone State poultry flocks.

    Birds shipped to Pennsylvania bound for live-bird markets and flocks that lay eggs sold for further processing in the state must now test negative for highly pathogenic avian influenza, according to the Department of Agriculture order.

    “As avian influenza continues to spread eastward, we have increased our monitoring and protocols to safeguard the state’s $13 billion poultry industry,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding in a statement. “With this order, Pennsylvania’s biosecurity efforts are strengthened without impeding commerce.”

    Birds and eggs originating from states with commercial poultry flocks affected by avian flu must meet paperwork and reporting requirements certifying they tested negative for the virus 72 hours or less before shipment.

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    Avian flu poses no human health threat. However, Pennsylvania egg producers have been worried that the virus could reach their farms from infected shipments headed to processing facilities for eggs used as ingredients or “breaking” operations.

    “The concern that we do have is that contaminated egg containers, egg flats or other egg containers that are often reused, might end up on Pennsylvania farms and result in the exposure of our poultry to the virus,” said Craig Shultz, director of the Bureau of Animal Health and Diagnostic Services at the state Department of Agriculture.

    Egg production in Iowa, the nation’s largest egg-laying state, dropped 21 percent in May as avian flu continues to spread there, according to the federal Department of Agriculture.

    The dip in supply has driven up prices nationwide and farmers in Pennsylvania, the third-largest egg-producing state in the country, are cashing in.

    “Prices have gone from about $1.19 a dozen up into the mid $2.40s and $2.50s, so there has been a significant increase in shell egg prices here in Pennsylvania, unfortunately because of the situation in the Midwest,” said Christian Herr, executive vice president of PennAg Industries Association.

    Herr said the new testing requirements are likely to have little impact on the state’s poultry industry.

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