Bird flu found in Western Washington

PACIFIC COUNTY, Wash. – The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) says a backyard flock in Pacific County has tested positive for pathogenic avian influenza – better known as ‘bird flu.’

The owners reported that their birds suddenly started getting sick and dying. Agriculture officials took samples on May 4 and confirmed cases of bird flu on May 5.  This is the first known case of the virus in Washington since the latest outbreak began.

Bird flu typically does not spread to humans, but it is extremely deadly to birds, and can spread between wild and domestic birds.  It is especially dangerous to domestic flocks as wild birds migrate in the spring or fall.  Dr. Amber Itle, the Washington State Veterinarian, says anyone keeping chickens should be careful to keep them away from wild birds as much as possible.  If you find a sick or dead bird in the wild, you should not bring it home to try and nurse it back to health.  Instead, you should report it to the Department of Fish and Wildlife using this online form.

The WSDA says the virus does not affect meat or eggs, although birds from the infected flock in Pacific County will not enter the food system.

There is no vaccine, so if the virus gets into a flock of domestic birds the typical solution is to kill all of them to make sure the virus does not spread.  That has led to mass culls in other parts of the country, where the virus showed up on commercial farms, and is raising concerns that egg prices could rise even higher as farms recover.

The WSDA will hold a virtual press conference at 2:00 on May 6th.  You can watch it live, or find the recording, on their YouTube page.

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