Pierce Marks Lewis County’s Second Neighbor With Reported Bird Flu

Owners Should Take Steps to Protect Birds, Whether Flocks Are for Food or Kept as Pets

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State veterinarians with the Washington Department of Agriculture (WSDA) are asking bird owners to double down on biosecurity measures as three counties have now reported cases of bird flu in backyard flocks.

Last week, Pacific County reported the state’s first cases of the disease. Over the weekend, Spokane County was the next in line. On Wednesday morning, the WSDA reported Pierce County was the third in the state to be affected, meaning two of Lewis County’s neighbors have now seen cases.

The two most recent cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 — also known as bird flu — were discovered in non-commercial backyard flocks in Pierce County and confirmed May 10, after the flock owners contacted the WSDA sick bird hotline to report an unusual number of sudden deaths in their flocks.

Between the two affected flocks, there are a mixture of turkeys, chickens, peacocks, ducks and waterfowl. The state veterinarian quarantined the premises and the birds that have not already succumbed to the virus will be euthanized.

Washington wildlife officials also confirmed two cases of the flu in wild birds including a bald eagle at Loon Lake in Stevens County and a Canada goose in Whatcom County. As was stated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in a news conference last week, the virus so far appears to be able to infect every species of bird.

There are eight more wild bird cases under investigation across Washington.

“With so many suspicious cases in wild birds pending investigation, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to avoid exposing your flock to wild waterfowl and shorebirds,” said Dr. Amber Itle, state veterinarian, in a news release. “Call us if you suspect your own birds are sick and report sick wild birds to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.”

Itle said one step flock owners should continue to take is preventing contact between their birds and wild birds by eliminating access to ponds or standing water on their property and keeping different domestic species such as ducks and geese penned separately from chickens and turkeys.

Flock owners should also limit access to their farms, not lend or share farm tools or equipment, and not share or sell eggs from backyard flocks. While eating cooked eggs does not pose a health risk to humans, transferring eggs off-farm could also transfer the virus to other places and therefore, other birds.

There is no immediate public health concern due to the avian influenza virus detected. As always, the meat from both wild game birds and domestic poultry should be properly cooked.

Unusual deaths or illness among domestic birds should be reported to the WSDA Avian Health Program at 1-800-606-3056. Report dead or sick wild birds using the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife’s online reporting tool.

Since May 5, when the first case of avian influenza was announced in Washington, WSDA has received nearly two dozen calls on its sick bird hotline.

“Avian influenza is here,” Itle said. “Whether it has been confirmed in your county yet or not, you should be taking steps to protect your birds and prevent the spread of this virus which could wipe out your flock.”

Avian influenza can be transmitted from wild birds to domestic birds through direct contact, fecal contamination, transmission through the air, environmental contamination and shared water sources. The virus can also be spread from farm to farm.

Both wild and domestic waterfowl can be infected with the virus and not show signs of disease.

Reducing or eliminating contact between wild birds and domestic flocks and practicing good biosecurity is the best way to protect domestic birds from the disease. Bird owners can bring their flocks inside and undercover to protect them from wild waterfowl.

Visit agr.wa.gov/birdflu or USDA’s Defend the Flock program for more information about avian influenza and protecting flocks from this disease.

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