A rapidly spreading bird flu virus in the United States has been detected in a non-commercial Washington backyard flock in Pacific County, the state Department of Agriculture said Friday.
So far more than 37 million chickens and turkeys have died and more deaths are expected in the coming months as the virus quickly becomes the country’s worst outbreak.
State and federal labs tested samples taken from the Pacific County flock for bird flu on Thursday, after owners reported sick birds and an increased death rate, according to a press release from the state agency.
It is the first detection of the virus so far in 2022, according to the WSDA, which said the herd has been quarantined and will be euthanized to prevent further spread.
However, a few preliminary positive bird flu cases 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 Canada goose in Whatcom County and a snow goose in Moses Lake, she said.
No cases of bird flu have been identified in 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 robust response plan, but this development demonstrates how important good biosecurity can be, especially for owners of backyard birds,” state veterinarian Dr. Amber Itle said in a statement.
The WSDA works 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, as well as officials from health and wildlife of both states.
Oregon officials also confirmed on Friday that several geese from a non-commercial waterfowl flock died suddenly of bird flu at a farm in Linn County, Oregon – the state’s first case since 2015, a report said. reported the Associated Press.
About 34 states have reported cases or outbreaks since the last outbreak hit North America, WSDA Dr. Dana R. Dobbs said at the press conference. It has also nearly wiped out 2 million poultry in Canada, as cases are reported in several provinces.
The outbreak is largely spread by migrating birds and can be spread through direct contact, aerosols, fecal contamination or contaminated water and food, Dobbs said, also noting that the migration pattern of wild birds has been a bit “strange “due to recent weather conditions.
“I would have hoped he would be gone by now and we were literally holding our breath that he would cross the Pacific Flyway, but now, unfortunately, we are implicated,” she said.
As of May 6, the USDA has identified more than 1,000 cases of bird flu among wild birds in 25 states.
Owners of backyard flocks should bring birds under cover or cover their cubes if possible, clean up any feed spills, limit visitors to the farm – especially other poultry owners – and buy feed only from sources national poultry improvement organizations that undergo strict inspections, Dobbs said.
The risk of bird flu spreading to humans is low, however, even with one confirmed case from someone involved in culling infected birds in Colorado, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Federal government guidelines require farms to euthanize entire commercial flocks if a bird tests positive for avian flu. Millions of animals in Iowa barns have been suffocated by high temperatures or toxic moss, Bloomberg reported.
Bird flu last hit the United States in 2015 and killed an estimated 50 million animals. It cost the federal government, as it deals with killing and burying the birds, more than $1 billion, according to a Bloomberg report.
The WSDA advises commercial poultry farmers and owners of backyard flocks to monitor for possible cases of avian influenza and to report deaths or illnesses in domestic birds to the state Avian Health Program at 1-800-606- 3056.
For more information and resources, visit the USDA Defend the Flock program website: st.news/birdflu.