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More Avian Influenza Quarantines in WA

PHOTO: The Washington State Department of Agriculture says the avian influenza outbreaks it has found so far have been concentrated in flocks where wild birds and domesticated chickens mingle. Photo credit: kromeshnik/FeaturePics.com.
PHOTO: The Washington State Department of Agriculture says the avian influenza outbreaks it has found so far have been concentrated in flocks where wild birds and domesticated chickens mingle. Photo credit: kromeshnik/FeaturePics.com.
February 4, 2015

OROVILLE, Wash. - It's the fourth quarantine in a month, and the second in Okanogan County, as state agriculture officials try to control the spread of what they say is a highly contagious form of avian influenza in Washington.

As its name suggests, the virus affects birds, not people, and is fatal in chickens and turkeys. Since the first of the year, other infected flocks have been found in Clallam County, and quarantines were lifted just a week ago in Benton and Franklin counties.

Hector Castro, communications director for the state Department of Agriculture, said this situation is a first.

"We have never seen high-pathogenic avian influenza in Washington state," he said. "It appears to be brought in through the wild birds, through the wild waterfowl, carrying it along the migratory pathways, which is why we believe we're seeing it crop up here and there in different parts of the state."

In Whatcom County, wild birds tested positive for the virus in December. With one exception, Castro said, the outbreaks have been spotted in small flocks of birds. He said chicken and egg products and game birds are safe to eat as long as they are properly cooked.

Castro described what the quarantines entail.

"Folks might be taking eggs from their flock to friends or neighbors, or moving some of their birds to another property, or selling a bird here or there," he said. "And so, when there's a quarantine, it prohibits any movement of poultry or poultry products within those quarantine zones."

There may be more cases of avian influenza as spring migration gets into full swing. Castro said anyone with flocks of poultry that seem to be experiencing higher mortality or illness can call the Ag Department's Avian Health Hotline at 800-606-3056.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA