Avian flu found in birds near Port Angeles

It's fourth Washington county hit by disease

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PORT ANGELES (AP) — Avian flu has reached Clallam County, and agriculture workers have destroyed all of the infected ducks, chickens and geese.

It’s the fourth county in Washington to be hit by the H5N2 bird flu.

This strain of flu is not harmful to humans, but it’s contagious and deadly to birds. Officials plan to impose a ban on the movement of eggs in a 6-mile radius of the infection area. Once that’s in place, inspectors will search for sick or dead birds, according to the Peninsula Daily News.

Avian flu is carried by wild ducks and spreads from their feces. State officials are warning backyard chicken and duck owners to keep their fowl away from wild birds.

State Department of Agriculture spokesman Hector Castro said the home where the birds were located in the Agnew area is owned by Sherry and Gary Smith. Sherry Smith had alerted state officials after several of her birds got sick, Castro said.

U.S. and state agriculture workers dressed in biohazard suits euthanized the birds at Smith’s home Sunday, federal Department of Agriculture spokesman Dr. Alan Huddleston said.

Avian flu does not affect meat or eggs, which are safe to eat.

“There are no people with any illness related to (flu-infected) poultry anywhere,” state Department of Health spokesman Don Moyer said.

About 700 birds in two backyard flocks in the Tri-Cities area were affected by the outbreak earlier this month. Some birds died from the fast-acting H5N2 virus. The remaining were destroyed to prevent the disease’s spread. Scientists are trying to determine whether the Tri-Cities outbreak was caused by the same H5N2 responsible for a December outbreak in southwest British Columbia that led to nearly 250,000 chickens and turkeys being destroyed.

A northern pintail duck in Whatcom County south of British Columbia tested positive for H5N2 in December.

The state Department of Agriculture has ordered a quarantine of at least 240 days for a 20-mile zone in Benton and Franklin counties around the Tri-Cities properties with the infected flocks. The quarantine prohibits the movement of eggs, poultry and other poultry products outside the zone.

The virus has not been detected in the state’s commercial poultry operations or anywhere else in the U.S., state officials have said. But the Canadian government has banned imports of birds, raw poultry and poultry products from Washington and Oregon. China has also banned all U.S. poultry, eggs and poultry products.