Bird flu detected in Cowlitz County flock

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A Cowlitz County domestic flock tested positive for bird flu last week, and state officials urge precaution ahead of what they imagine might be a surge in cases in the autumn.

Bird owners should expect to proceed extra “biosecurity measures” — resembling stopping contact with wild birds — through the autumn, Washington state veterinarian Dr. Amber Itle said in a news release.

“The autumn avian migration is starting, meaning we’re more likely to see more bird flu cases throughout the state again,” she said.

In anticipation of the rise, the Washington State Department of Agriculture launched a domestic sick bird online reporting tool last week. Owners can also report sick birds to the department’s hotline at 1-800-606-3056.

Anyone who encounters sick or dead wild birds can report them on the state Department of Fish and Wildlife website.

Avian flu is contagious and might kill a farm’s chickens, pheasants, turkeys and other domestic fowl, in response to the state Department of Health. A high pathogenic virus, what’s currently spreading, ends in a better death rate in some poultry species.

The most important risk factor is direct contact with wild waterfowl, which all 34 infected domestic flocks had before becoming in poor health, in response to the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

This strain of avian influenza first was detected in early May in a small backyard flock in Pacific County.

Itle, the state veterinarian, advises flock owners to evaluate risk aspects and proceed safety while allowing birds outside of hot coops as summer continues.

“It’s a double-edged sword: It’s not protected to allow them to out for long periods of time where they could are available contact with the virus, however it’s also not protected to go away them in a hot coop,” she said.

State veterinarians also recommend that owners avoid bringing birds to fairs, exhibits, poultry auctions and on-farm sales.

Last week, organizers canceled the Kalama Small Animal and Poultry Market’s fall sale, citing bird flu risks. In May, the spring market also was canceled.

After detection, state and federal animal health officials monitor for bird flu symptoms in flocks inside a 6.2-mile zone of the sick flock. Owners on this radius are encouraged to self-report their birds’ health online.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture has veterinarians who can test a flock at no charge — often inside 24 hours — so long as it receives a bird flu report and a state veterinarian believes a flock is infected. Any flock found with the flu might be euthanized, with the possibility for owners to get federal compensation.