snow geese

Three snow geese in flight at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area recently.

The skies and fields of Lancaster County are awash in migratory waterfowl.

But as beautiful as the skeins in the sky are, the migrating flocks of geese, ducks and tundra swans could be carrying a deadly virus.

The Penn State Poultry Science Team has issued an alert to poultry farmers in Pennsylvania because of several deadly avian influenza infections found in domestic poultry operations and in wild birds in Western states.

Because Pennsylvania is on a major flyway for waterfowl, Penn State Extension has advised poultry farmers to take “extra special precautions” in biosecurity measures.

Specifically, farmers are advised to be on the lookout for wild birds that may be near bodies of water on the farm. “Consider keeping organic flocks inside when waterfowl migrations are heavy in your area,” the Poultry Science Team advised.

Also buildings should be secured and locked when not inhabited to keep any wild waterfowl out.

Poultry farmers should also look for any spikes in mortality during the waterfowl migration and report and send samples of birds to proper diagnostic labs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the H5 avian virus was first detected in wild birds in Washington state in December. Since then, this and other viruses have killed domestic and wild waterfowl in California, Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Nevada.

No human infections associated with these viruses have been found anywhere in the world. In general, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, the risk to people from the avian viruses is low.

Last week, Idaho wildlife officials collected some 2,000 dead snow geese that they said fell from the sky. The geese appeared to have died of avian cholera, according to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

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