WHATCOM COUNTY, Wash. — Whatcom County Health Department and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) issued a joint statement today, Tuesday, November 22nd, asking the public to avoid contact with sick and dead birds to prevent the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), also known as “bird flu.”
Western Washington, including Whatcom County, has seen periodic HPAI infections in backyard poultry flocks in the past year. The virus is spreading right now in wild birds migrating through the area, like Canada geese and snow geese. Close to 400 sick or dead geese were found recently at Wiser Lake, with several of them testing positive for HPAI. It is standard practice for DFW to test a representative sample and not every bird in situations like this. Whatcom County Health Department / Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife joint statement (November 22, 2022)
The following information was also included in the joint statement.
What to do if you find a sick or dead wild bird or animal
- Do not touch or handle any sick bird or other wild animal and do not attempt to transport them to a veterinarian or your own property for treatment. Moving sick animals can spread the virus to areas where it wasn’t before.
- Use this online form to report sick/dead wild birds suspected of having avian influenza to the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.
- Report sick/dead domestic birds to Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Avian Health Program: 1-800-606-3056 or visit Avian Influenza | Washington State Department of Agriculture for more information about how to protect backyard flocks
- Keep an eye on pets to ensure they do not come in contact with dead or sick animals that may have been exposed to HPAI.
- If you need to move a dead animal to keep your pet away from it, wear disposable gloves, double-bag the animal, and push it deep into the trash to keep scavengers away from it.
- Bird hunters should follow standard safety steps, including not disposing of carcasses in the field. Double-bag the animal and put it in the trash.
How to protect your domestic flock from avian influenza
- Protect your flock from coming into contact with wild birds by confining them to an area with a roof that doesn’t let water through.
- Remove/drain or dispose of items that may attract wild waterfowls, such as ponds or water features.
- Watch for signs of sickness in poultry such as lack of energy and appetite, decreased egg production, diarrhea, and similar symptoms of illness. Report birds with these symptoms to the Washington Department of Agriculture at 1-800-606-3056.
HPAI is very contagious among birds, but the risk to people is low. This current strain of bird flu does not appear to easily infect humans.