Farmers keeping wary eye on avian flu cases

Blackjack Farms

While public health agencies respond to the escalating human flu season, agriculture officials are tracking cases of avian influenza in the Northwest.

The H5N2 strain of bird flu was reported in British Columbia late last year, and since has been identified in four Washington counties. The virus can be deadly for birds but does not pose a threat to human health.

H5N2 was recently confirmed in Clallam County. Agriculture officials euthanized 118 infected ducks, chickens and geese at a Port Angeles farm Sunday, according to the Peninsula Daily News.  A quarantine was established around the property.

turkeys2_9797083_ver1.0_640_480While H5N2 has not been reported in Kitsap County, local farmers are taking basic precautions to protect their flocks, said Stuart Boyle, a Silverdale grower and president of the Western Washington Poultry Farmers Cooperative.

The bird flu cases are cause for concern, but not panic, Boyle said. H5N2 seems to have moved very slowly, he said. Growers should “just be conscious of what’s going on.”

H5N2 is carried by wild waterfowl and spread through bird feces. Officials recommend farmers try to keep their poultry away from wild birds.

Boyle said growers should also learn the symptoms H5N2 and be quick to report deaths or illnesses that appear consistent with the virus. The hotline for avian influenza reports is 1-800-606-3056.

Boyle said he’s been asking visitors to his farm about their travel history, and determining whether they’ve been in areas where wild waterfowl gather. Basically, he wants to make sure visitors don’t inadvertently track poop from wild birds onto his property.

You can find much more detailed avian flu information on the state’s Avian Health Program website.

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