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WSU Helping To ID Avian Flu In Northwest Bird Populations

Cynthia Goldsmith
Colorized transmission electron micrograph of Avian influenza A H5N1 viruses (seen in gold) grown in MDCK cells (seen in green).

Lab workers at the Washington State University secure pathogen labs in Pullman and Puyallup are working overtime to test avian flu cases from poultry in the Northwest.

WSU lab workers have run some 700 tests for avian flu so far. If they turn up positive, the samples are sent on to the feds to identify the strain.

Tim Baszler, director of the two labs for WSU, said his staff processes a lot of negative samples each year. It’s repetitive work.

“But when you have these kinds of situations, where you have a commercial poultry industry where an owner may lose thousands or tens-of-thousands of birds and they are helping protect that,” Baszler said. “They really get engaged and feel good about what they are doing. They feel like they are contributing to a societal need.”

The lab workers process about 250,000 tests per year.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.