(WHTM)– A deadly strain of avian influenza is sweeping the country. The illness can spread rapidly in commercial poultry operations. The Center for Disease Control posts the latest figures on the spread of the virus on its website. On April 5, there have been 118 outbreaks in 24 states, affecting almost 23 million birds.
Wild birds can harbor the virus, and spread it to domestic flocks either by direct contact or through their droppings. The CDC data shows 593 wild birds with the flu detected in 31 states.
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One of those states was Pennsylvania. In Chester County, a bald eagle was found dead from avian flu. That is why zoos and animal rescues across Pennsylvania are planning for worst-case scenarios. At Raven Ridge Wildlife Center in Lancaster County, they’ve established preventative measures, starting right when the bird arrives.
“We can test them right on-site,” said Tracie Young, Raven Ridge’s wildlife rehabber. “Take a couple of minutes to see if they are, in fact, positive for the virus.”
If a bird passes that test, it will, for the most part, be kept outside.
Says Tracie, “There’s caution tape around all the birdcages and mews, that when you go in there, you have booties, you have gloves, you have your PPEs, you go in, take care of the bird, you come back out, and then throw that PPE out.”
Tracie is worried for the birds they already have at the facility, especially their ambassador animals like Pharaoh the Great horned owl and Baron von Vulture. She’s also concerned about what would happen if an infected bird made slipped in under the radar. It’s that time of year when baby animals start showing up on the doorstep-especially baby birds.
“If we were to get in a bird that tested positive,” says Tracie, “They would shut us down for six weeks, on quarantine. Nobody in, nobody out. And with the baby season, we can’t afford that. So we’re taking precautions ahead of time.”