PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) – Avian influenza that is spreading rapidly across the United States in the Pacific Northwest has been detected in two flocks of backyard birds in rural Oregon and Washington.
A number of geese in a non-commercial flock of about 100 waterfowl have suddenly died at a farm in Lynn County, Oregon, and federal authorities confirmed Friday that they died from bird flu. This was the state’s first case since 2015. Also on Friday, authorities in Washington state received word that chickens and turkeys in a flock of about 50 birds on a non-commercial farm in Pacific County, Washington, had also contracted the disease.
All birds in both states were killed on Friday and farms were placed under quarantine.
The latest outbreak of bird flu hit North America in December and has led to the culling of nearly 37 million chickens and turkeys on US farms since February. More than 35 million birds in flocks across 30 states have been affected.
The USDA has confirmed 956 cases of bird flu in wild birds, including at least 54 bald eagles. But the actual number is likely much higher because not every wild bird that dies is tested and the federal census does not include cases recorded by wildlife rehabilitation centers.
The discovery of bird flu in the Pacific Northwest was not unexpected as the virus spread rapidly across the country in both domestic and wild birds, especially waterfowl. The virus is spreading as wild birds migrate north along the Pacific flight path, sometimes stopping to rest amid local flocks, said Dana Dobbs, a Washington state veterinarian.
An injured bald eagle was found in British Columbia, Canada, in early March, said Dr. Ryan Schulz, an Oregon veterinarian.
“In the long and short term, the producer noticed that one day a crow flew with some of his chickens and the next day, he literally described that they were dropping like flies,” she said.
“We want to contain and eliminate this disease as soon as possible to protect our commercial poultry industry as well as some of our backyard flocks that sell eggs and do things like that.”
Cases do not pose a danger to humans, and farm birds are not used as food.
The virus primarily affects waterfowl, Pacific Northwest wildlife authorities said Friday, but people who feed songbirds should take extra steps to clean their feeders frequently out of great caution.
No cases of bird flu have been detected in commercial poultry in either state, state agriculture officials said Friday.