Oregon and Washington state detect first cases of bird flu in backyard flocks

Officials in Oregon and Washington confirmed on Friday that the two states had their first cases of highly pathogenic bird flu and that about 150 backyard chickens, turkeys and geese had been destroyed this week.

The disease has been present in North America since at least December and was mainly spread by migrating waterfowl or scavengers like ravens, ravens and raptors, said Colin Gillin, state wildlife veterinarian. Oregon. It can be transmitted by direct contact or by water or food contaminated with saliva or feces.

Bird owners should watch for respiratory illnesses, ruffled feathers or lethargy or cases of birds suddenly dropping dead. In Oregon, people should call the Oregon Department of Agriculture sick bird hotline, 800-347-7028, for domestic birds, or the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife hotline. Oregon, 866-968-2600, for reports of sick or dead wild birds. Messages are checked daily.

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Gillin told an online news conference on Friday that this year’s strain has been deadlier to wild birds than a 2014-15 outbreak that killed more than 50 million domestic birds. So far this year, 37 million domestic birds in the United States have died from the disease or been preemptively killed because the disease has been detected in their flocks.

“All bird species should be considered susceptible,” Gillin said. “We know that there are high transmission rates not only in poultry and domestic birds, but also in wild birds.”

The current strain doesn’t seem to pose much of a risk to people. Although it has been detected among birds in at least 34 states, only one person who has worked directly with birds in Colorado has a diagnosed case of bird flu, said Frank Ameduri, spokesman for the Department of Health. from Washington. Public health officials work with wildlife and agriculture officials to monitor potential human exposures.

“It’s very unlikely to spread to humans, but if it does, we’ll spot it and let you know,” Ameduri said.

Cases in the two northwestern states have affected backyard flocks. In Oregon, a Linn County woman called on Tuesday to report she had killed three geese over the weekend, and the National Veterinary Services Laboratory yesterday confirmed they had avian flu, said said Ryan Scholz, state veterinarian with the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Investigators have not determined what caused the infection. About 100 birds from that flock, including adult geese, goslings and two guinea fowl, were euthanized on Friday.

Washington’s first detection was in a backyard flock of about 50 chickens and turkeys in Pacific County, said Dana Dobbs, field veterinarian with the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

“One day a crow came with some of his chickens, and the next day he literally described them dropping like flies,” she said.

The remaining birds were killed on Friday after tests by Washington State University and the National Veterinary Services Laboratory confirmed the presence of avian flu. Neither Washington’s nor Oregon’s backyard flocks were near commercial chicken farms, and officials don’t yet know how many other animals are at risk.

Oregon farms had about 2.75 million chickens in 2021, according to the Department of Agriculture. Poultry is a $15.8 million industry.

People with backyard flocks should keep their animal habitats clean and covered if possible and follow U.S. Department of Agriculture biosecurity guidelines, Dobbs said. This includes regular hand washing, wearing protective shoe covers and limiting the number of people in contact with the birds.

“The most important thing is biosecurity,” she said. “It can be birds literally flying overhead or landing among the flocks. It’s good if you can shelter them if you can, or cover their coops if you can. Clean up any food spills. Limit visitors to the farm, especially if there are other poultry owners.

So far, the two main risk factors in backyard flocks are mixed species and access to ponds or other water sources, even if it is only a a temporary water source like a puddle around which birds congregate, said Amber Itle, a Washington state veterinarian. Owners should segregate their birds by species and limit access to water, she said.

The current strain does not appear to affect many songbirds. People who have bird feeders or fountains should keep them clean, but don’t need to stop providing birdseed unless they attract waterfowl, disease coordinator Bryan Richards said. emerging species at the US Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center.

The 2014-15 strain essentially burned once migratory birds reached their northern nesting grounds, Richards said. Scientists hope it will happen this year, but fear it could come back as birds migrate south in the fall based on experiences in Europe, which had a similar bird flu in 2021.

Itle agreed that farmers should stay alert this fall, when migrating birds head south. Migratory birds typically pass through Oregon heading north in April and May and south beginning in September.

“When the birds get together, they’re in Alaska, and they’re all hanging out. They’re going on dates and these viruses are reassorting, we never really know what we’re going to get,” she said.

This story originally appeared in the Oregon Capital Chronicle and is republished here under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license. Read more stories at oregoncapitalchronicle.com.