OLYMPIA, Wash. – Two more flocks tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 on Tuesday, May 24. Both backyard flocks were located in King County. The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) is responding to the outbreak and urging flock owners to devote all efforts to increasing biosecurity measures to protect uninfected flocks, especially keeping domestic flocks isolated from wild waterfowl.
The flock owners called the WSDA Sick Bird Hotline and reported sudden deaths and signs of lethargy and depression in their small flocks.
“Both death and neurological symptoms such as head bobbing, walking abnormally, and lack of fear are especially prominent in both domestic and wild waterfowl in this year’s HPAI outbreak,” Dr. Amber Itle, state veterinarian, said.
Since May 5, when WSDA announced the first case of avian influenza in Washington, the National Veterinary Services Laboratory has confirmed the virus in 11 domestic, backyard flocks in eight counties in Washington. All infected flocks have consisted of backyard flocks with substantial exposure to wild waterfowl.
Dr. Itle has cautioned bird owners to withdraw from exhibitions or fairs until at least the end of June and has requested that live bird markets discontinue sales temporarily.
“If we can just hang in there until the end of June, hopefully, we can get through the worst of it,” Itle added. “It is all about reducing risk. Bringing birds from different flocks together definitely increases opportunities for this virus to spread and impact more birds,” Itle added.
Practicing good biosecurity means flock owners take steps to prevent diseases from being introduced into their flocks. Biosecurity measures can include washing boots or shoes before entering and when leaving a chicken coop, sanitizing equipment used around poultry, and wearing clean clothing around birds.
WSDA has numerous resources for flock owners to learn about bird flu and protect their flocks, including a bird flu webpage with information about each confirmed flock with HPAI, an interactive map, a Facebook group dedicated to updates about bird flu in Washington, and even a recording of a live question and answer session for bird owners that WSDA hosted.
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 take them for sampling.
Sick or dead wild birds should be reported using the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s online reporting tool. View all WSDA video statements on our YouTube channel.