25 Oct Governor Josh Shapiro Recognizes Pennsylvania Veterinary Lab, Field Staff For Excellence In Avian Flu Crisis Response
Harrisburg, PA – In a ceremony on Monday, Governor Josh Shapiro presented Governor’s Awards for Excellence to Pennsylvania Veterinary Laboratory Director Dr. Deepanker Tewari, and nine agency veterinarians and field staff for their swift, aggressive, and effective response during the avian influenza outbreak in Pennsylvania in 2022 and early 2023.
Veterinarians Dr. Amy Nesselrodt, Dr. Sally Adams, Dr. Heather Palm, and veterinary staff members Jessica Wingate, Sarah Yurisic, Erin Ackerman, Nancy Diehl, Sarah McAlanis, Amberlee Dressler, and Dawn Dilling coordinated the field response during the first outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Pennsylvania since 1983 – a crisis that became one of the most significant animal health emergencies in U.S. history.
“Ultimately, the outstanding diagnostic work Dr. Tewari spearheaded, in concert with the work of the state’s veterinary field staff, minimized damage to the nation’s economy and food supply,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said. “Equally as important, the swift, effective work of these teams, and the sensitivity and professionalism they brought to their work minimized the emotional hardships for our poultry business owners amid significant loss. We owe our entire animal health team a significant debt of gratitude for their diligence and sacrifices in service to Pennsylvania.”
The team’s collective work was critical in protecting Pennsylvania’s $7.1 billion poultry industry and restoring normal trade conditions during the outbreak. Beginning in April 2022, the outbreak affected 31 commercial flocks, 36 backyard flocks, and caused the loss of 4,648,240 domestic birds, through the last confirmed infection in March 2023.
The field veterinary team’s response required complex planning, coordination, and critical partnerships at every level of the industry, working in concert with staff from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, PA Department of Environmental Protection, PA State Police, other PA Department of Agriculture bureaus and PA Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Penn State Extension, local government agencies, and poultry farms and businesses across Pennsylvania and in neighboring states.
The team’s work included long hours, working with rotating teams of federal employees, and training state staff and private sector employees who had taken on new roles during the emergency response. They did so, treating the animals and their owners with dignity and respect, and with understanding and respect for cultural and religious differences.
Dr. Tewari led a team of technicians and veterinary diagnostic specialists who worked day and night, seven-days-a-week to provide crucial support to Pennsylvania’s poultry industry throughout the 2022 avian influenza outbreak. The team processed a tremendously high volume of samples from poultry producers across the state, providing quick, accurate test results so that field staff and farm managers had the necessary information to direct the emergency response.
The team, in concert with the two other veterinary labs that make up the PA Diagnostic Laboratory System, provided urgent testing required for decision-making and response, while continuing to perform other critical diagnostics to monitor for and respond to rabies, chronic wasting disease, and other contagious and foreign animal diseases that threaten Pennsylvania’s food supply, natural resources, public health, and economy.
The Governor’s Awards for Excellence recognize employees for exemplary job performance or service that reflects initiative, leadership, innovation and increased efficiency. Employees or a group of employees are nominated by a co-worker for the award. Dr. Tewari and the veterinary field staff team were among 54 employees from eight agencies Governor Shapiro recognized Monday.
Learn more about the work of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal Health team protecting $132.5 billion agriculture industry at agriculture.pa.gov.
Media Contact: Shannon Powers – 717.603.2056, email@example.com
View the orginal press release here. The original copy was updated by PVMA to include inspector Dawn Dilling as an award recipient.