From a city park in Eugene, Ore., to a backyard flock near Olympia, Wash., the latest cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza show the disease is rapidly spreading in the Pacific Northwest.
Several Canada goose goslings collected from Alton Baker Park in Eugene have tested positive for HPAI, and a larger outbreak is suspected as more sick and dead waterfowl have been observed at the park. A red-tailed hawk from Eugene and an osprey collected from Dorena Reservoir (east of Cottage Grove) May 10 have also tested positive.
These cases mark the first known detections of the new avian flu strain in wild birds in Oregon. Earlier this month, the first Oregon case in a backyard poultry flock was confirmed in Linn County and one additional case has been confirmed in Lane County.
Since its arrival in Washington state two weeks ago, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has now hit nine flocks in seven counties – all in backyard flocks. Tests confirmed the latest case in Thurston County on May 17.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture tested the flock after the owner contacted WSDA’s Sick Bird Hotline reporting several dead and sick birds in the flock, which contains an unknown number of chicken, geese, guinea fowl and ducks. After the flock samples tested positive at state and national labs for HPAI, the state veterinarian quarantined the flock. The flock will be euthanized to contain the spread of the virus.
As with every flock that has tested positive for HPAI so far, the Thurston County flock had substantial exposure to wild waterfowl. Dr. Amber Itle, Washington state veterinarian, is urging bird owners to take steps to stop the virus from spreading, including skipping fairs and exhibitions until at least 30 days after the last detection.
“If we can remain vigilant for a few more weeks, I’m hopeful we can resume normal activities at the end of June,” Itle said.
Separate flocks, waterfowl
Itle added the biggest concern is keeping flocks away from wild waterfowl, especially right now.
“It’s going to be especially important to keep flocks away from ponds where resident wild geese may be hatching out goslings,” Itle said. “These ponds are highly likely to have heavy environmental contamination.”
The risk of HPAI to human health is low, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The only known human case involving infection and illness was someone involved in the culling of presumptively infected poultry at a commercial farm in Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Outbreaks of the H5N1 bird flu have devastated commercial poultry operations in the Midwest this year, killing over 37 million chickens and turkeys. HPAI has yet to show up in commercial flocks in the West, but the disease has already been found in backyard flocks in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah and Idaho.