Since its arrival in Washington state two weeks ago, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), also known as bird flu, has now hit nine backyard flocks in seven counties, with Thurston County confirming the most recent case as of Wednesday morning.
The Washington state Department of Agriculture (WSDA) tested the flock after the owner contacted WSDA’s Sick Bird Hotline reporting several dead and sick birds in the flock, which contains an unknown number of chicken, geese, guinea fowl and ducks. After the flock samples tested positive at state and national labs for HPAI, the state veterinarian quarantined the flock. The flock will be euthanized to contain the spread of the virus.
Consistent with the other cases confirmed in flocks across the state, the Thurston County birds had substantial exposure to wild waterfowl.
Dr. Amber Itle, Washington state veterinarian, is urging bird owners to take steps to stop the virus from spreading, including skipping fairs and exhibitions until at least 30 days after the last detection, avoiding flock exposure to wild birds, not sharing equipment with other poultry farms and keeping eggs and chicken meat on the farm.
The virus remains highly unlikely to infect humans, but transport of poultry products has the potential to spread the bird flu off the farm. As always, poultry products should be cooked thoroughly before being eaten.
“If we can remain vigilant for a few more weeks, I’m hopeful we can resume normal activities at the end of June,” Itle said.
WSDA will continue to announce the first detection of bird flu in new counties.The department’s website tracks new and subsequent detections across the state and includes an interactive map of surveillance areas around confirmed detections.
Flock owners are encouraged to visit the map where they can enter their address and learn if they are in a surveillance zone. Those in a surveillance zone should take extra care to protect and monitor their flocks.
Officials urge flock owners to report unusual, multiple deaths or illness among domestic birds 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.
Bird flu is 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 and live on surfaces for weeks. 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 this disease.
Bird owners should bring their flocks inside or undercover to protect them from wild waterfowl during the migration season. Experts say flock owners should limit visitors to their farms, change shoes and clothing when leaving coops and pen waterfowl birds separately from the others in the flock.
At this time, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is not recommending that people take down wild bird feeders as there is not enough evidence to suggest that bird flu spreads in birds congregated at the feeders. As always, it is good practice to regularly clean feeders with a dilute bleach solution, rinse well and allow to air dry before refilling and hanging.
People are encouraged to report sick wild birds that they suspect have avian influenza to WDFW’s reporting tool.
WDFW is working with multiple partners, including the United States Department of Agriculture Animal Plant Health Inspection Services and the Washington State Department of Agriculture, on efforts to test and monitor birds in Washington.
Visit agr.wa.gov/birdflu or USDA’s Defend the Flock program for more information about avian influenza and protecting flocks from this disease.