PENNSYLVANIA (WHTM) — Over year after the outbreak current strain of the avian flu began in Pennsylvania, the state has now reached Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)-free status recognized by the World Animal Health Organization.

On Wednesday, Gov. Josh Shapiro and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced that the milestone means the state’s $7.1 billion poultry industry can return to normal international trade conditions for the first time since the April 2022 outbreak, which affected 31 commercial flocks, 36 backyard flocks, and caused the loss 4,648,240 domestic birds. 

“Hi-Path Avian Influenza is one of the most significant animal public health emergencies in American history. I am proud of this Administration’s coordinated and aggressive response to reach this critical disease-free milestone today.” Shapiro said.

This milestone comes several months after Shapiro made a stop at a farm in the Midstate.

“In March I visited Silver Valley Farm in Lancaster and pledged that my Administration would double down on our efforts to support farmers and reduce the spread of Avian Flu – and that’s exactly what we did,” he said. My Administration stands with Pennsylvania’s farmers, in good times and bad — that’s why my budget includes crucial support for farmers impacted by the avian influenza crisis. My Administration is standing with them and working every single day to protect their flocks, because when our farmers succeed, Pennsylvania succeeds.”

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said the new HPAI-free status is thanks to the state’s aggressive response to the outbreak.

“Pennsylvania’s coordinated, aggressive, and effective response to the hi-path avian influenza outbreak has brought us to this point,” he said. “Planning, coordination, and critical partnerships forged among every level of the industry working in concert with two Pennsylvania government administrations, including the Department and PA Veterinary Diagnostic Lab System, the USDA, and Penn State Extension, have made the difference in minimizing the impact of what has been the costliest animal agriculture emergency in U.S. history. The continuing support of Governor Shapiro and the General Assembly through quick, responsive funding to support the response and cushion the blows to the industry have kept Pennsylvania poultry thriving amid immense, unprecedented challenges.”

Currently, the Department of Agriculture is reviewing the fifth-round Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Grant applications. These grants reimburse those in the poultry industry for the costs of protecting against the virus.

The last confirmed infection of the current strain of the virus in Pennsylvania was on March 17, 2023, in Lancaster County.

Though the state is now considered HPAI-free, Pennsylvania is still under a general quarantine to protect against the potential of infection.

The Department of Agriculture is still testing and monitoring for new infections across the state. Detections of the virus in surrounding states mean that there is a threat of new infection in Pennsylvania, especially as bird migration season approaches.

The Department of Agriculture is asking poultry producers to stay vigilant by implementing strict biosecurity practices at all times, monitoring bird health, and reporting any unexplained illnesses and deaths in a flock to 717-772-2852.