Mar. 29, 2022

HARRISBURG – Rep. Lee James (R-Venango/Butler) issued a warning today to backyard chicken owners to protect their flocks after the National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa, confirmed five Merganser ducks died along Kahle Lake in Venango County from the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI H5N1).

“HPAI is a dangerous transmissible disease of poultry and has been identified in commercial poultry flocks in 10 states since early February, some of which border Pennsylvania,” said James. “Migratory birds can carry the disease and spread it to both backyard poultry as well as the commercial poultry industry. Since there is no cure, depopulation is the only solution. We must remain vigilant to protect Pennsylvania’s multi-billion dollar commercial poultry industry.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is safe to eat poultry and eggs when they are properly handled and thoroughly cooked. The CDC mentions that the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit kills bacteria and viruses, including HPAI viruses. This means that over-easy and sunny side up eggs should be avoided. Also, people should not consume meat or eggs from poultry that are sick.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA), the symptoms of Avian Influenza include:
• Unexplained sudden death.
• Swelling of head.
• Purple discoloration of comb and wattles.
• Sudden drop of feed and water consumption.
• Lethargy and depression.

James said HPAI is transmitted through contact with fecal matter from wild birds, infected birds, contaminated equipment, and contaminated boots and clothing.

In order to protect flocks from the disease, backyard chicken owners should:
• Keep poultry inside their coop to avoid contact with wild birds.
• Remove birdhouses and feeders used by wild birds.
• Wear dedicated footwear and clothing to work with birds.
• Wash hands before and after working with birds.
• Clean and disinfect equipment in contact with birds.
• Limit visitors to the premises.

Anyone who witnesses unexplained illness or death within their flock should contact PDA at 717-772-2852. Pennsylvanians can assist with HPAI surveillance efforts by reporting any sick or dead wild birds to the Game Commission by calling 610-926-3136 or emailing Any sick or dead domestic birds should be reported to PDA at 717-772-2852.

Information on protection measures and available resources is here.

Representative R. Lee James
64th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Nate Temple