Avian flu confirmed in Washington backyard flock

An avian flu virus spreading rapidly across the US has been detected in a non-commercial Washington backyard flock in Pacific County, the state Department of Agriculture said Friday.

More than 37 million chickens and turkeys have died so far and more deaths are expected in the coming months as the virus is fast becoming the country’s worst outbreak.

State and federal laboratories tested samples collected from the Pacific County flock for avian influenza Thursday, after owners reported sick birds and an increased mortality rate, according to a news release from the state agency.

It’s the first detection of the virus so far in 2022, according to the WSDA, which said the flock has been quarantined and will be euthanized to prevent further spread.

However, some preliminary positive cases of bird flu are still awaiting confirmation, according to Dr. Kristin Mansfield of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Those birds include a sandhill crane in Connell, Washington, a sand goose in Whatcom County and a snow goose in Moses Lake, she said.

No cases of bird flu have been identified within Washington’s commercial poultry industry and there are currently no immediate public health concerns, the WSDA said Friday. Bird flu does not affect poultry meat or eggs.

“We have a vigorous response plan in place, but this development demonstrates how important good biosecurity can be, especially for backyard bird owners,” Dr. Amber Itle, a state veterinarian, said in a statement.

WSDA is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and held a joint press conference Friday with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, along with health and wildlife officials from both states. .

Oregon officials also confirmed Friday that several geese in a backyard flock of noncommercial waterfowl died suddenly of bird flu on a farm in Linn County, Oregon, the state’s first case since 2015, the Associated Press reported. .

About 34 states have reported cases or outbreaks since the last outbreak hit North America, WSDA’s Dr. Dana R. Dobbs said during the news conference. It has also nearly wiped out 2 million birds in Canada as cases are reported in several provinces.

The outbreak is largely transmitted by migratory birds and can spread through direct contact, aerosols, fecal contamination, or contaminated water and food, said Dobbs, who also noted that the migration pattern of wild birds has been somewhat ” strange” due to the recent weather.

“I would have hoped it would be gone by now and we were literally holding our breath because it would go through the Pacific Flyway, but now unfortunately we are involved,” he said.

As of May 6, the USDA has identified more than 1,000 cases of bird flu among wild birds in 25 states.

Backyard flock owners should bring birds indoors or cover their buckets if possible, clean up feed spills, limit visitors to the farm, especially other poultry owners, and buy feed only from domestic sources. improvement of birds that undergo strict inspections, Dobbs said.

However, the risk of bird flu spreading to humans is low, even with one confirmed case from a person involved in slaughtering infected birds in Colorado, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Federal government guidance requires farms to cull entire commercial flocks if a bird tests positive for avian influenza. Millions of animals in Iowa barns have been suffocated by high temperatures or poisonous foam, Bloomberg reported.

Avian flu last hit the US in 2015, killing an estimated 50 million animals. This cost the federal government, since it is responsible for killing and burying birds, more than a billion dollars, according to a report by Bloomberg.

WSDA is advising commercial poultry farmers and backyard flock owners to monitor for possible cases of bird flu and report deaths or illnesses in domestic birds to the state’s Avian Health Program at 1-800-606-3056.

For more information and resources, visit the USDA Defend the Flock program website: st.news/birdflu.

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