OLYMPIA — The Washington State Department of Agriculture is asking owners of chickens, ducks and other domestic birds to be vigilant following an outbreak of avian influenza in six non-commercial flocks statewide.
WSDA is asking bird owners to ensure there is no flock-to-flock or farm-to-farm transmission of the H5N1 avian influenza virus, which was confirmed on May 11, by eliminating standing water or access to ponds and keeping ducks and geese penned separately from other domestic fowl like chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl and peacocks.
Limiting or preventing contact between domestic and wild birds is also important, according to the WSDA, since wild birds are carriers.
Flock owners should also limit access to their farm and neither lend nor share farm tools, equipment, or sell eggs, and should report any unusual or multiple deaths in their flocks to the WSDA's Avian Health Program at 800-606-3056, according to the WSDA press release.
"Avian influenza is here," said Washington State Veterinarian Amber Itle. "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."
Itle also asked bird owners to skip livestock exhibitions, shows and fairs until 30 days after the last confirmed detection of avian influenza, and to assume that where waterfowl gather is a likely site of avian influenza.
According to the WSDA's avian influenza webpage, the disease has been confirmed in flocks in six counties — Whatcom, Okanogan, Clallam, Pierce, Spokane and Pacific.
While highly contagious among birds, the Washington State Department of Health on its avian influenza web site said the current strain of H5N1 is a different strain from previous years and does not appear to easily infect people, and only two cases — one in the United Kingdom and one in Colorado — appear to be related to this strain of the virus.