Backyard flocks infected with avian flu total six, more under investigation
Two more detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1, this time in Clallam County, make six affected flocks in Washington state. With a half-dozen cases since the first confirmed detection less than a week ago, biosecurity has never been more important for bird owners.
State veterinarians are urging flock owners to be hyper-vigilant in ensuring there is no farm-to-farm transfer of the virus from infected flocks and eliminate exposure of domestic flocks to wild birds as much as possible.
“With so many suspicious cases in domestic flocks and wild birds pending investigation, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to avoid exposing your flock to wild waterfowl, shorebirds, and other domestic flocks,” Dr. Amber Itle, state veterinarian, said.
The two most recent cases of HPAI were in non-commercial backyard flocks in Clallam County and were confirmed yesterday afternoon, May 11. Flock owners contacted the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s (WSDA) sick bird hotline to report an unusual number of sudden deaths in their flocks as well as other sick birds.
The two unrelated flocks, with one flock of a dozen geese and the other of 10 chickens. The state veterinarian quarantined both premises and the birds that have not already succumbed to the virus will be euthanized. Both flocks reported that their birds had direct contact with wild waterfowl.
Itle says one step flock owners should continue to take is preventing contact between their flocks and wild birds by eliminating access to ponds or standing water on your property and keeping different domestic species like ducks and geese penned separately from chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl, and peacocks. 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, transferring eggs off-farm could also transfer the virus.
“Now is the time to be extra disciplined, even if it seems extreme. If flock owners could remain diligent for just a few weeks until the waterfowl complete their migration north, we should be able to get through the worst of it with lower impact,” Dr. Itle said.
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.
Report unusual, multiple deaths or illnesses among domestic birds to the WSDA Avian Health Program at (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, six counties have had infected domestic or wild birds, and several other suspect cases are being investigated.
“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. With statewide detections from Pierce to Pacific and to Spokane counties, we can assume that where ever there are wild waterfowl, there is avian influenza.”
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 this disease. Bird owners should bring their flocks inside or undercover to protect them from wild waterfowl.
USDA APHIS National Confirmations of HPAI in Domestic Flocks and Wild Birds
By Dr. Amber Itle, Washington State Veterinarian
Posted May 13, 2022