Health

Whatcom County detects first case of avian influenza

Virus rarely infects humans; public health risk remains low
May 14, 2022 at 4:10 p.m.

By CHARLOTTE ALDEN
Staff Reporter

The Washington State Department of Agriculture has detected a case of avian influenza in Whatcom County. 

On May 12, the department reported a case of the highly pathogenic virus in a 100-bird backyard flock of mixed types. Cases have also been identified in Pacific, Spokane, Pierce, Clallam and Okanogan counties. 

Whatcom County advised bird owners to prevent contact between their animals and wild birds to prevent infection. The county also recommended that bird owners not share equipment between farms, and follow standard practices for the safe handling of poultry and eggs in a May 13 press release.

Avian influenza, or bird flu, rarely infects humans, the press release stated, as it requires direct contact with infected birds. It can be deadly for chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese. 

“Avian influenza can be transmitted from wild birds to domestic birds through direct contact, fecal contamination, transmission through the air, environmental contamination and shared water sources,” the press release stated. 

People with sick or dead domestic birds should report them to the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Avian Health Program at 1-800-606-3056. People can report sick or dead wild birds they suspect may have died of avian influenza to the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife at its website.

Whatcom County said that people with known contact with birds infected by avian influenza will be contacted by public health to monitor for symptoms and to test if needed. 

The CDC reported one case of a human infected with the virus in April after contact with infected poultry but advised that public health risk remains low. Across the country, millions of birds have been impacted by the virus since December.  

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