The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratory confirmed an outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) virus affecting the DEC-run Reynolds Game Farm pheasant population. Pheasants are raised there for release in New York State for hunting purposes.
DEC began investigating suspicious deaths at the Game Farm, located near Ithaca in Tompkins County, on March 20 and initial test results indicated a possible outbreak of the H5N1 avian influenza (AI) virus. On March 21st, the farm was put under quarantine following positive test results from the Cornell Wildlife Health Lab. A full 120-day quarantine period for the farm is required. This week, at least 500 of DEC’s breeder flock of 6,600 pheasants died from HPAI.
DEC is working closely with animal health experts at the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (AGM) and the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory and following standard protocol for an outbreak of HPAI.
Cooperatively managed by DEC, AGM and USDA, the remaining breeder flock of pheasants on the property is being depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease in accordance with standard HPAI response protocols. Birds from the flocks will not enter the food system according to DEC.
As part of existing avian influenza response plans, AGM and USDA are working jointly on additional surveillance and testing in areas around the affected flock. Additional information on the USDA response plan can be found at USDA APHIS | Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that the recent HPAI detections in birds do not present an immediate public health concern. HPAI cases in humans are rare, and symptoms are typically mild. The risk of a person becoming infected is low.
The DEC’s Adult Pheasant Release Program annually provides about 30,000 adult pheasants (18 weeks and older) for several fall stocking programs. Most are used for stocking more than 100 DEC-managed public hunting lands before and during the regular pheasant hunting season and two preseason youth pheasant hunt weekends. Read more about the program here.
Photo: Adult pheasants at the Richard E Reynolds Game Farm in Ithaca (photo courtesy DEC).