OLYMPIA – Two more detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1, this time in Clallam County, make six affected flocks in Washington state. With a half-dozen cases since the first confirmed detection less than a week ago, biosecurity has never been more important for bird owners.
State veterinarians are urging flock owners to be hyper-vigilant in ensuring there is no farm-to-farm transfer of the virus from infected flocks and eliminate exposure of domestic flocks to wild birds as much as possible.
“With so many suspicious cases in domestic flocks and wild birds pending investigation, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to avoid exposing your flock to wild waterfowl, shorebirds, and other domestic flocks,” Dr. Amber Itle, state veterinarian, said.
The two most recent cases of HPAI were in non-commercial backyard flocks in Clallam County and confirmed yesterday afternoon, May 11. Flock owners contacted the Washington State Department of Agriculture's (WSDA) sick bird hotline to report an unusual number of sudden deaths in their flocks as well as other sick birds.
The two unrelated flocks, with one flock of a dozen geese and the other of 10 chickens. The state veterinarian quarantined both premises and the birds that have not already succumbed to the virus will be euthanized. Both flocks reported that their birds had direct contact with wild waterfowl.
Itle says one step flock owners should continue to take is preventing contact between their flocks and wild birds by eliminating access to ponds or standing water on your property and keeping different domestic species like ducks and geese penned separately from chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl, and peacocks. Flock owners should also limit access to their farms, not lend or share farm tools or equipment, and not share or sell eggs from backyard flocks. While eating cooked eggs does not pose a health risk, transferring eggs off-farm could also transfer the virus.
“Now is the time to be extra disciplined, even if it seems extreme. 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 with lower impact,” Dr. Itle said.