ITHACA, N.Y.—With a confirmed case of avian flu at the Reynolds Game Farm in Ithaca, a lengthy quarantine has been ordered and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is addressing the outbreak.

Reynolds Game Farm is owned and operated by New York State, used to raise pheasants for legal hunting season in autumn. The positive case also means the remaining 6,000 or so pheasants will be euthanized to control the spread of the infection, which is specifically the H5N1 avian influenza virus, or highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

As of Friday, according to the DEC, at least 500 of the pheasants at the farm had died before euthanasia had begun, nearly 8 percent of the total number housed at the farm, according to DEC Public Information Officer Lori Severino.

Severino said the agency is working with the state’s Department of Agriculture and Markets and the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory to jointly respond to the outbreak. According to Severino, the farm was put under quarantine on March 21, 2023 as the test was being processed. The positive result was received on Friday, March 24.

“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,” Severino said. “Birds from the flocks will not enter the food system. 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.”

Severino and the DEC did not offer any guidance regarding what other nearby farmers should do anything to protect their animals from contamination, though state and federal officials may conduct testing at nearby farms. Cornell’s Krysten Schuler, assistant research professor in public and ecosystem health, confirmed last week that two animals on the school’s campus had “recently” tested positive for HPAI, a skunk and a Canada goose, though both were wild animals and it is unknown if those deaths were part of the Reynolds Game Farm outbreak.

The CDC still considers HPAI not to be a public health concern for humans. It is rarely found in humans and has only caused mild symptoms.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Editor in Chief at The Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.org.