First case of bird flu found in county — Hotline set up

Hotline set up to report sick poultry

“None of the bird flu in Washington State is associated with human illness,” said Hector Castro, Washington State Department of Agriculture.

RIVERSIDE – Forty pheasants and a dozen turkeys from a game flock of about about 5000 birds in the Riverside area, have been found to have contracted avian influenza, or bird flu, according to Hector Castro with the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

Samples from the birds were tested and confirmed positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza on Tuesday, Jan. 27. The specific strain of avian influenza has not yet been identified, according to Castro.

On Thursday, Jan. 29, a team of veterinarians from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and WSDA began assessing the area for poultry flocks and contacting bird owners in the immediate vicinity of the infected flock. The WSDA, USDA and Okanogan County Public health are working with the flock owners in developing a response plan to this latest report, he said. That plan has not been finalized and no details are available at this time.

The site of the flock is under quarantine and no birds are being moved from the property. As recently as November, the flock owners had their birds tested and, at that time, they showed no sign of avian influenza in the flock.

Other outbreaks of the avian flu have been reported in Clallam, Benton and Franklin counties, but involved much smaller numbers of poultry. WSDA continues to advise commercial poultry growers and backyard flock owners to be vigilant with biosecurity measures. This should include limiting contact between your birds and wild birds, especially waterfowl.

“We are wrapping up work in Benton and Franklin Counties where the infected flock was very near the border of two counties where we lifted the quarantine after three weeks,” Castro said. “While restrictions remain in place in Clallam County.

WSDA has determined that the avian influenza detected in the two Benton County backyard flocks in December does not appear to have spread beyond those two sites. To reach this conclusion, a team of veterinarians with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and WSDA visited approximately 1,800 premises in the quarantine area and tested samples from birds at more than 70 locations. All samples tested negative for avian influenza. As a result of this action and lifting of the quarantine, there are no longer restrictions on the movement of poultry or poultry products within the areas of Benton or Franklin counties. Such restrictions remain in place in parts of Clallam County after a flock was confirmed infected with the H5N2 avian influenza virus on Jan. 16.

Three strains of avian influenza have now been detected in Washington state:

  • H5N8 – found in a falcon fed wild duck
  • H5N2 – detected in a wild duck in Whatcom County, in two backyard flocks in Benton County, and in a backyard flock in Clallam County.
  • H5N1 – detected in a wild duck in Whatcom County

“None of the bird flu in Washington State is associated with human illness,” said Castro.

The sub-type of the H5N1 virus detected in Whatcom County is genetically different from the virus with the same designation that has circulated in Europe and Asia in recent years. The Eurasian H5N1 has infected people. To date, there have been no cases in the United States of humans becoming ill from any of these viruses.

Deaths or illness among domestic birds should be reported to the WSDA Avian Health Program at 1-800-606-3056.

While the risk to the public is low, it is not zero. People with known close contact with infected birds, including owners of infected flocks, will be contacted by public health officials as a precautionary measure.