KING COUNTY, WA — King County this week became Washington’s eighth to record bird flu in backyard flocks amid a growing national outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza. While the risk to humans is considered very low, public health officials said the virus is effective at infecting and killing domestic and wild birds, including chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail and ducks.
Washington confirmed its first outbreak in early May, and infections have now been reported in eight counties, including King, Pierce and Thurston. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, King County confirmed a bird flu outbreak in a non-poultry flock of 180 on Tuesday. The CDC is aware of more than 350 such outbreaks impacting 35 states.
Earlier this month, Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo announced it would move its most at-risk species — including peacocks, penguins and flamingos — indoors and out of public view to minimize their risk of being exposed to the deadly virus.
While catching or spreading avian influenza among humans is very rare, Public Health – Seattle & King County has a few suggestions for people to help limit the impact on local bird populations. Anyone who sees a sick or wild bird should not touch them, and those who have birds or maintain flocks should report any unusual illnesses directly to the state.
Here is some guidance from Public Health – Seattle & King County:
When birds get this virus they may have:
- Discharge from the nose and mouth. The discharge may have spots of blood in it.
- Other symptoms include ruffled feathers, blue or swollen combs, wattles or legs, a tilted head, lack of coordination, tiredness, and sudden death.
For the general public:
- The risk of dogs and cats catching bird flu is very low, but you should prevent them from having contact with or eating wild birds.
- Hunters or other people who may have contact with wild birds should:
- Wear disposable gloves if touching birds, bird carcasses, or bird feeders.
- Thoroughly wash hands, surfaces and equipment (knives, bird feeders, clothes).
- Not harvest or handle wild birds that are obviously sick or found dead.
Steps to protect flocks:
- Prevent contact between your flocks and wild birds by keeping birds out of ponds or other water on your property.
- Separate domestic water birds (like ducks and geese) from chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl, and peacocks.
- Keep poultry in outdoor pens, with a roof or overhead netting if possible. Keep other animals out, including rodents, insects, cats, dogs, wild birds and other animals.
- Do not have visitors to your farm or property as much as possible.
- Do not lend or share farm tools or equipment.
- Do not share or sell eggs from backyard flocks. Eating cooked eggs is not a health risk but moving eggs from your farm could spread the virus.
- Keep poultry at home. Do not take them to fairs or exhibitions until it has been 30 days since the last confirmed detection of bird flu in Washington state.
- Do not participate in poultry markets. The state agriculture department has requested that live market poultry sales stop for now.
- Keep up-to-date on bird flu in Washington state. Check the WSDA website often.
How to report potential infections:
Source: Bellevue Patch