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Bird flu Detected in Walla Walla County, Self-Reporting Flock Health in Surveillance Zones Encouraged

OLYMPIA – Washington state domestic flocks had a nearly three-week break from highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) until this past Friday. Walla Walla County joined the tally of backyard flocks on Aug. 12, bringing the total of domestic flocks statewide to 31.

Though cases have slowed down in domestic flocks in Washington, wild birds and mammals, and neighboring states’ domestic flocks continue to have detections, indicating the virus is still present in the environment. Bird owners should continue to take precautions to protect their flocks.

“While we had hoped cases would tapper off by now, current trends suggest that resident wild waterfowl are creating a reservoir of ongoing infection. We must stay vigilant and prepared to respond for the coming weeks, and potentially months,” Dr. Amber Itle, Washington State Veterinarian, said.

Flock owners within 10 kilometers of a detection are in a surveillance zone and are encouraged to self-report the health of their flock. WSDA released a new online surveillance self-reporting tool to facilitate self-reporting. State veterinarians seek to contact every flock owner in a surveillance area to check on the health of their flock; self-reporting allows a veterinarian to make phone contact to discuss biosecurity and what to look for without having to make in-person contact. 

State veterinarians say the biggest risk factor to date is direct contact with wild waterfowl. Since May 5, when the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) announced the first Washington case, all 31 infected flocks have had contact with wild waterfowl.

Veterinarians also continue to recommend avoiding bringing birds to fairs, exhibitions, poultry auctions, and on-farm sales until at least 30 days after the last detection in the state.

Continuing enhanced biosecurity measures include keeping birds under cover or fenced out of ponds or water sources shared with wild waterfowl where risk is highest. With temperatures heating up, Dr. Itle advises flock owners on how to assess risk factors and continue safety while allowing birds outside of extremely hot coops. 

WSDA resources for flock owners to learn about bird flu and protect their flocks include a bird flu webpage, an interactive map, frequently asked questions, a Facebook group, and biosecurity precautions when resuming exhibitions.

If your flock experiences sudden death or illness of multiple birds, call WSDA’s Sick Bird Hotline at 1-800-606-3056. Birds that have already died should be double-bagged and kept in a cooler on ice until WSDA veterinarians can arrange for sampling. Vets also say not to allow scavenger birds to have access to dead domestic fowl as this can further spread the virus. Sick or dead wild birds should not be touched or moved and can be reported using the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s online reporting tool.