As the number of confirmed highly pathogenic avian flu cases in Washington state has jumped to eight since early May, State Veterinarian Amber Itle is urging flock owners to avoid fairs and exhibitions until at least 30 days after the last known infection.
“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,” Itle said. “We anticipate activities can resume to normal by the end of June.”
The request comes as Okanogan and Whatcom counties were added May 13 to the list of counties in the Evergreen State to show cases of HPAI in non-commercial flocks. 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 Washington State Department of Agriculture announced. Previous infections were confirmed in Pacific, Spokane, Pierce and Clallam counties.
The WSDA has increasingly called for flock owners to step up biosecurity since HPAI was first detected in flocks in Eastern states several months ago and says it is not too late to take steps to protect your flock.
“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,” said Itle, who spent an hour on a live question and answer session with flock owners on YouTube May 12.
Officials say the 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.”
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 Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah and Idaho.