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Bird flu detected in Cowlitz County, online domestic sick bird reporting launches

Courtesy of the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA)

OLYMPIA – With the fall migration underway, Washington state is seeing an uptick in highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) cases. This week Cowlitz County joined the tally of flocks with HPAI, bringing the total of domestic flocks statewide to 34. An additional Pierce County flock tested positive as well.

In anticipation of the fall surge in cases, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) launched the domestic sick bird online reporting tool this week to enable to report sick and dead domestic birds online. The online tool complements the existing WSDA sick bird reporting hotline as well as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s online reporting tool for wild birds.

Washington State Veterinarian Dr. Amber Itle says bird owners should expect the need to continue taking extra biosecurity measures through the fall.

“The fall avian migration is starting, meaning we’re likely to see more bird flu cases throughout the state again,” she said.

After a detection, state and federal animal health officials monitor for HPAI symptoms in flocks within a 10 kilometers surveillance zone around the detection site. Flock owners in a surveillance zone are encouraged to self-report the health of their birds using the online surveillance self-reporting tool. 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 WSDA announced the first Washington case, all 34 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. Enhanced biosecurity measures can protect flocks, including keeping birds under cover or away from ponds or water sources shared with wild waterfowl. With temperatures still warm as we near summer’s end, Dr. Itle advises flock owners on how to assess risk factors and continue safety while allowing birds outside of extremely hot coops.

“It’s a double-edged sword; it’s not safe to let them out of long periods of time where they may come in contact with the virus, but it’s also not safe to leave them in a hot coop,” Dr. Itle added.

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, use the new online reporting tool or 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. 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.