Avian flu detected in Washington poultry flocks spreads to Okanogan County

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OLYMPIA — Washington agriculture agents say an outbreak of avian influenza first seen in backyard chicken flocks May 4 has now been detected in Okanogan County, and they’re asking poultry farmers statewide not to take their birds to fairs and other agricultural exhibitions until the disease is quelled.

The state Department of Agriculture says the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 was confirmed Thursday to have infected an Okanogan County flock, as well as one in Whatcom County. They’re the latest confirmed cases since the initial detection in Pacific County last week, bringing the total known infection incidence to eight flocks in six counties.

The disease results in sudden illness and unexpected death in domesticated birds, and is carried by wild birds. New flocks can be infected through direct contact, fecal contamination, and airborne and waterborne transmission. Backyard flocks in which individual birds test positive must be euthanized to prevent further spread.

In a press statement Thursday, Washington state veterinarian Amber Itle said exhibiting domestic fowl is highly risky and should be avoid during such an outbreak. “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.”

Domestic chickens, turkeys, ducks and other birds can best be protected by eliminating contact with wild fowl, such as by keeping them inside or under a roof.