By The Chronicle staff
Washington state now has eight confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1, also known as bird flu.
The latest two come from Okanogan and Whatcom counties.
As the outbreak continues, Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) officials are urging bird owners to skip fairs and exhibitions until 30 days after the last confirmed detection of the flu in Washington.
As stated in a WSDA news release, officials are hopeful this request will be short-lived.
“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,” Dr. Amber Itle, state veterinarian said. “We anticipate activities can resume to normal by the end of June.”
With several cases since the first confirmed detection less than a week ago, the spread of the virus is gaining momentum. Biosecurity has never been more important for bird owners, stated the release.
That includes staying home and withdrawing from all exhibition events. Commingling of domestic birds from multiple households where ducks, geese and poultry often share housing, equipment and show spaces is a very high-risk activity for disease transmission.
“It is vital you skip shows, exhibitions and fairs for now to protect bird health and reduce risk of transmission,” Itle said. “With so many confirmed cases in domestic flocks and wild birds, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to avoid commingling of poultry or moving them off of your farm.”
If bird owners see signs of influenza, including multiple sick birds or multiple sudden deaths, contact WSDA’s sick bird hotline to report. If only a single bird is sick or dies, contact your veterinarian.
As of Friday morning, the two most recently reported cases of bird flu were in non-commercial backyard flocks and were confirmed May 12. Flock owners contacted the sick bird hotline to report an unusual number of sudden deaths in their flocks as well as other sick bird 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 news releases stated, “It is not too late to take steps to protect your flock.”
Itle said one step flock owners should take is preventing contact between their flocks and wild birds by eliminating access to ponds or water on their property and keeping different domestic species such as ducks and geese penned separately from chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl and peacocks.
Flock owners should 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.
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.
“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,” Itle said.