<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=192888919167017&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
Sunday, May 28, 2023
May 28, 2023

Linkedin Pinterest

Avian flu hits the 1st flock of backyard chickens in Benton County


KENNEWICK—Benton County has its first case of avian flu in a domestic flock in the local outbreak that began in spring 2022.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture received confirmation Friday from the National Veterinarian Services Laboratory that avian flu had caused the death of multiple chickens in a small backyard flock in Benton County.

The owner reported the deaths earlier this week.

“While the risk of avian influenza is always present from interactions with wild waterfowl in the Pacific flyway, spring migration in the next four to six weeks may present an additional challenge,” said the state Department of Agriculture.

Benton County is the 16th of the 39 counties in the state to have an avian flu infection in a domestic flock in the last year.

However, Franklin County has had the only state outbreak in a commercial flock at a plant that produces eggs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the plant had just over 1 million chickens.

Avian flu in commercial flocks in the United States, requiring chickens to be killed, have been blamed in part for soaring egg prices.

State officials are trying to contact anyone who has a backyard or commercial flock within 6 miles of the recently confirmed avian flu outbreak in Benton County, but knowing all the backyard flocks can be challenging according to the state Department of Agriculture.

The specific location of the backyard outbreak has not been released. But owners of backyard flocks can notify the state at bit.ly/WABirdFluReporting that they have domestic flocks and will be contacted if they are in the outbreak area.

Benton and Franklin and nearby areas also have had wildlife infected, including geese at Columbia Park in Kennewick, the McNary Wildlife Refuge near Burbank and Cold Springs National Wildlife Refuge east of Hermiston, Ore.

Additional wild birds, including a sandhill crane, an American crow, a mallard and a gull, also were infected in the two counties over the last year.

Franklin County had the first confirmed case of avian flu in a mammal in Washington when at least one baby raccoon in a litter of four tested positive for the virus at Sacajawea Historical State Park in Pasco.

Since then raccoons in two other counties in the state and a bobcat in northeast Washington have tested positive for avian flu.

High avian flu risk

The risk of domestic and commercial poultry being exposed to avian influenza remains high, said Amber Itle, the Washington state veterinarian.

For domestic chicken and geese flocks “the most common risk factor for infection is proximity to water sources or ponds where wild waterfowl congregate, increasing environmental viral load and risk of transmission to domestic flocks,” Itle said.

Since May 2022, when the WSDA announced the first Washington case, all infected flocks had contact with wild waterfowl.

She recommends suspending outdoor access for flocks if there is a risk of contact with wild birds and covering coops and outdoor runs. Cleaning and disinfection also is encouraged.

Precautions are detailed at poultrybiosecurity.org.

“At this time, it is difficult to predict how long these extra precautions will be necessary over the next few months,” Itle said.

Flock owners are asked to report sick domestic birds to bit.ly/DomesticBirdFluReporting.

Wild birds and animals suspected of being infected with avian flu can be reported to the Department of Fish and Wildlife with its online form.

The risk of people being infected with avian influenza is considered very low, but can occur by touching and handling infected birds. No human cases have been reported in Washington.