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More than 86,000 turkeys in Lehigh County affected by recent avian flu outbreaks

Turkey farm adobe stock.jpeg
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Adobe Stock
More than 86,000 turkeys in Lehigh County were affected by the avian flu.

NORTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. - With Thanksgiving dinners just days away and turkey purchases at the highest point of the year, poultry farms across the country also are being affected by the latest fast-spreading outbreak of the avian flu.

The Lehigh Valley is no exception.

  • More than 86,000 turkeys in Lehigh County have been affected by avian flu outbreaks, either by contracting the disease or being on the infected premises
  • The USDA report does not include information about which commercial turkey farms were affected, but Jaindl recently reported an outbreak of the disease.
  • The CDC said the avian flu poses a low risk to the general population, but people should take precautions

According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture map, four outbreaks of the virus were reported in commercial turkey meat production facilities in Lehigh County from Nov. 3-10. All the reported outbreaks remain active.

More than 86,000 turkeys have been affected by the outbreaks, either by contracting the disease or being on the infected premises, according to the USDA.

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Courtesy
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U.S. Department of Agriculture
The USDA map of avian flu infections shows four outbreaks in Lehigh County as of Nov. 22, 2022

The USDA map does not include information about which commercial turkey farms were affected.

Jaindl outbreak

Jaindl reported an outbreak of the virus at its turkey farm facility in North Whitehall Township on Nov. 9.

David Jaindl, owner of Jaindl Farms in Orefield, released a statement saying the outbreak will not affect the company’s turkey supply for Thanksgiving.

“Many of the Jaindl turkeys intended for Thanksgiving were processed prior to this challenge,” Jaindl said in the statement. “We are confident that we will have an adequate supply of turkeys for the Thanksgiving holiday.”

“Many of the Jaindl turkeys intended for Thanksgiving were processed prior to this challenge. We are confident that we will have an adequate supply of turkeys for the Thanksgiving holiday.”
David Jaindl, owner of Jaindl Farms in a written statement

The news release said the avian flu outbreak doesn’t present a food safety concern for Jaindl’s turkeys.

Jaindl said in a phone interview that the prices of the turkeys will not be affected for Thanksgiving, but the supply may be affected for Christmas.

More than 4.4 million birds in Pennsylvania have been affected by the avian flu.

In the US, more than 49 million birds have died because of the avian flu outbreak since the outbreak started in early 2022. The birds have died either from contracting the disease or by being culled — meaning purposefully killed — to prevent the spread of the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

It is unclear whether the turkeys affected by the outbreaks in Lehigh County were culled.

Jaindl produces about 840,000 turkeys a year, according to its website.

Avian flu

Avian influenza, commonly known as “bird flu” or “avian flu,” is naturally occurring in wild birds, and they often can carry it without getting sick or dying. However, there are forms of the virus that are more infectious and can cause mass outbreaks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the avian flu poses a low risk to the general population, but people should take precautions such as avoiding direct contact with wild birds and minimizing contact with sick or dead poultry.

The Pennsylvania Bureau of Animal Health and Diagnostic Services confirmed the state’s first case of the highly infectious virus for the year on April 16, in a poultry farm in Lancaster County.

The bureau recommends people who suspect their poultry is infected with avian flu contact the department at 717-772-2852.

Sick or dead wild birds should be reported to the Pennsylvania Game Commission at 610-926-3136 or
pgc-wildlife health@pa.gov.