Avian flu detected in Spokane County backyard flock, Washington Agriculture Department reports

A dead bird from a backyard, noncommercial flock in Spokane County have tested positive for a new, highly contagious strain of avian flu, the Washington Department of Agriculture reported Saturday.

The dead goose displayed symptoms of the H5N1 virus prior to its death, and a private veterinarian submitted the bird for testing. It’s the second known instance of the virus afflicting Washington birds, after it was discovered in birds in Pierce County on Thursday. Officials are warning those with livestock to vigilantly watch their birds for symptoms including a lack of fear of humans, abnormal walking and lethargy.

While the flu can be transmitted from birds to humans, the Centers for Disease Control notes that the risk of infection is currently low in the United States.

The rest of the flock at the affected property was quarantined and euthanized to stop any potential spread, according to an Agriculture Department news release.

The Agriculture Department reports poultry and eggs continue to be safe to eat in Washington. The virus has yet to be discovered in any commercially kept birds in Washington.

“This second detection demonstrates how Washington is not immune to this virus and I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to avoid exposure to wild waterfowl and shorebirds,” Dr. Amber Itle, Washington’s state veterinarian, said in a statement. “One step owners should continue to take is preventing contact between their birds and wild birds by eliminating access to ponds or standing water on your property and keeping different domestic species like ducks and geese penned separately from chickens and turkeys.”

More information on the virus and outbreak is available at agr.wa.gov/birdflu. Deaths or illnesses of domestic birds should be reported to the Agriculture Department’s Avian Health Program by dialing 1-800-606-3056.

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