As birds begin their fall migration, the Washington Department of Agriculture (WSDA) wants to warn poultry farmers of the increased risk in the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza, also called bird flu.
In the state this year, 34 flocks have been infected by the deadly virus, which can be spread by any kind of bird, but is especially present in migrating waterfowl that are likely to co-mingle with domestic ducks and geese, according to a news release from WSDA.
The department is urging bird owners, whether they are commercial farmers or just raise a backyard flock, to keep biosecurity in mind this season.
State Veterinarian Dr. Amber Itle stated in the release flock owners should focus on keeping wild waterfowl away from domestic birds and follow the tenants of the acronym S.A.F.E.
• Self-report: high numbers of sick or dead birds and report the health of your birds if located nearby an infected flock.
• Avoid contact with migratory waterfowl.
• Fence birds out of shared water sources/ponds, especially as rain increases the amount of standing water in fields, pools, etc.
• Eliminate outdoor feeders, especially at night.
In addition to added safety measures, flock owners can use the domestic sick bird online reporting tool to report sick or dead domestic birds online. The online tool complements the existing WSDA sick bird reporting hotline as well as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s online reporting tool for wild birds.
“There is clear evidence that the virus did not re-assort to a less pathogenic form (over the summer). That’s what we were hoping for, but it didn’t happen,” Itle stated in the release. “So far this month there have been new detections along the northern border in our country, indicating that migrating waterfowl will continue to spread the virus through the fall.”
WSDA resources for flock owners to learn about bird flu and protect their flocks include a bird flu webpage, an interactive map, frequently asked questions, a Facebook group and biosecurity precautions when resuming exhibitions.
If your flock experiences sudden death or illness of multiple birds, use the new online reporting tool or call WSDA’s Sick Bird Hotline at 1-800-606-3056. For links to the various resources and reporting tools, visit https://bit.ly/3UxlgO5.
To read more about poultry biosecurity measures, visit https://poultrybiosecurity.org/.