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Okanogan and Whatcom join counties with confirmed bird flu cases

  |   Animal Health

Washington state now has eight confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1. The latest two come from Okanogan and Whatcom counties.

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 to eliminate exposure of domestic flocks to wild birds as much as possible.

The two most recent cases of HPAI were in non-commercial backyard flocks and were confirmed yesterday afternoon, May 12. 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 flocks, one with around 100 chickens and the other with nearly 30 birds (a mix of chicken, ducks, and geese), are quarantined and the birds that have not already succumbed to the virus will be euthanized.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), which has increasingly called for flock owners to step up biosecurity since HPAI was first detected in flocks in Eastern states several months ago, says it is not too late to take steps to protect your flock.

“Even though the virus has been detected in backyard and wild birds throughout the state, you can still safeguard your birds – but don’t wait,” Dr. Amber Itle, Washington state veterinarian, said. Itle, who spent an hour on a live question and answer session with flock owners on YouTube Thursday night, is hoping bird owners will take steps to stop the virus from spreading and any further need to euthanize flocks.

“If flock owners could remain diligent for just a few weeks until the waterfowl complete their migration north, we are hopeful we can get through the worst of it with lower impact,” 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 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.

Since WSDA announced the first case of avian influenza in Washington, eight counties have had infected domestic birds.

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.

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

For a video statement from Dr. Amber Itle, please visit our YouTube channel. 

USDA APHIS National Confirmations of HPAI in Domestic Flocks and Wild Birds

2022 Confirmations of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Commercial and Backyard Flocks

2022 Detections of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Wild Birds

By Dr. Amber Itle, Washington State Veterinarian