WALLA WALLA — Health officials here were notified on Monday, June 13, that Walla Walla County joins more than a dozen other counties in Washington state where avian influenza has been identified this year.
Public health Director Dr. Daniel Kaminsky said state health officials reported to him that a dead red-tailed hawk found in the Burbank area in May tested positive for the Type A virus, H5H1.
The hawk was found on May 3 in the McNary National Wildlife Refuge, operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Bird flu occurs naturally in wild aquatic birds, but can also infect poultry, such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese and guinea fowl and other species according to the Washington State Department of Health.
Rarely, bird flu viruses infect people and make them sick, usually only in instances where people had close contact with an infected bird.
Currently a new strain of H5N1 has been found in wild and domestic birds in many parts of the country, including Washington. Kaminsky said he was told numerous backyard chicken flocks in the state have been infected.
Bird testing and monitoring efforts by the state Department of Agriculture and the Department of Fish and Wildlife are underway statewide.
Officials are urging people to do the following:
• Report sick or dead domestic birds to Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Avian Health Program at 1-800-606-3056 or online at ubne.ws/birdreporting.
• Bird hunters should follow standard safety steps to avoid potential exposure to avian influenza and other viruses or bacteria.
• Visit the Department of Agriculture’s Avian Health Program website for information on how to best protect your flock.
• Call the DOH for questions about your own health at 800-525-0127.