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Washington State Department of Agriculture battling avian flu

Virus found in group of backyard poultry near Benton City

By Diego Flammini,

A team consisting of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) are working together to control the highly pathogenic H5 avian flu found in domestic birds in Benton County.

Washington State University’s Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Pullman, Washington made the discovery after a private backyard bird owner contacted the WSDA when he experienced losing nearly 50 birds last week.  

The virus is similar to what was discovered in the gyrfalcon in December 2014 and additional testing is being done to clarify the strain of the disease.

“We have a vigorous response plan but this development demonstrates how important good biosecurity can be, especially for backyard bird owners,” state veterinarian Dr. Joe Baker said. “We have not diagnosed the virus anywhere else in our domestic poultry population, but the presence of the virus in migratory waterfowl is a risk to backyard poultry. One step owners should take is preventing contact between their birds and wild birds.”

The H5 strain of the avian influenza usually doesn’t affect poultry meat or egg products, nor is there immediate risk to the public, but the WSDA is stressing anyone with poultry and/or backyard birds to be very diligent when it comes to biosecurity measures.

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