Avian flu confirmed in 2 Pacific Northwest backyard flocks

Avian flu that is spreading rapidly across the United States has been detected in the Pacific Northwest in two flocks of backyard birds in rural Oregon and Washington.

Several geese in a non-commercial flock of about 100 waterfowl died suddenly on a farm in Linn County, Oregon, and federal authorities confirmed Friday that they died of bird flu. It was the state’s first case since 2015. Also on Friday, Washington state authorities learned that chickens and turkeys in a flock of about 50 birds at a noncommercial farm in Pacific County , Washington, also had the disease.

All birds in both states were euthanized on Friday and the flocks were quarantined.

The latest bird flu outbreak hit North America in December and has led to the culling of an estimated 37 million chickens and turkeys on US farms since February. More than 35 million birds in flocks in 30 states have been affected.

The US Department of Agriculture has confirmed 956 cases of bird flu in wild birds, including at least 54 bald eagles. But the true number is likely much higher because not all wild birds that die are tested and the federal tally does not include cases recorded by wildlife rehabilitation centers.

The discovery of bird flu in the Pacific Northwest was not unexpected as the virus spread rapidly across the country in domestic and wild birds, especially waterfowl. The virus appears to be spreading as wild birds migrate north along the Pacific Flyway and sometimes these birds stop to rest amid domestic flocks, said Dana Dobbs, state veterinarian of Washington.

An infected bald eagle was found in British Columbia, Canada, in early March, said Oregon state veterinarian Dr. Ryan Scholz.

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

“We want to contain and eradicate this disease as soon as possible to protect our commercial poultry industry as well as some of our backyard flocks that sell eggs and do things like that.”

The cases do not pose a risk to humans and the birds from the farms were not used as food.

Pacific Northwest wildlife authorities said Friday that the virus appears to primarily affect waterfowl, but people who feed songbirds should take extra steps to clean their feeders frequently as a precaution.

There is no detection of bird flu in commercial poultry in either state, state agriculture officials said Friday.


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Sandy A. Greer