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USDA Waits On Lab Results From Further Testing For Avian Flu In Washington State

Anna King
Northwest News Network
Randy Wilson, with the USDA, holds a duck just after testing it for avian flu at a press event in Kennewick, Washington Monday.

Several major markets for U.S. poultry products have shut down trade after discoveries of avian flu in the west -- including the Tri-Cities, Washington.

Now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is testing flocks there.

Washington State agriculture officials and USDA vets have sampled birds at about 18 farms here so far. They called on 100 homes with no birds and eight feed stores.

USDA veterinarian Rolf Westly said there are about 15 feds and state officials in the field and about 50 people supporting them. And those numbers could grow by next week as the latest results come in.

“If it looks like things are ramping down then we’ll contract,” Westly said. “But if looks like it’s starting to build and spread and expand than we will bring more people in.”

Each sampling process is laborious, as workers have to suit up, don gloves and sterilize their boots in baths.

Even their truck tires have to be disinfected between stops.


Northwest Bird Flu Timeline

• Dec. 2, 2014 - Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N2 confirmed on two farms in British Columbia, Canada. The number eventually grows to 12 farms. WSDA and USDA respond by increasing surveillance in Whatcom County and outreach to raise awareness about the outbreak and the importance of biosecurity measures for poultry owners.

• Dec. 16, 2014 - Highly pathogenic avian influenza confirmed in wild birds in Whatcom County as a result of heightened surveillance. Two separate virus strains were identified: H5N2 in a northern pintail duck and H5N8 in a captive gyrfalcon that was fed hunter-killed wild birds.

• Dec. 19, 2014 – Highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N8 virus is confirmed in a backyard flock in Douglas County, Oregon. The virus kills several birds. The remaining flock is humanely euthanized.

• Dec. 31, 2014 – The presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N2 is confirmed in a backyard flock in Benton County, Wash. A second flock is later found to have birds with the virus. The surviving birds in the flocks are humanely euthanized by a joint USDA/WSDA team of veterinarians and technicians.

• Jan. 2, 2015 – USDA dispatches a team of veterinarians, technicians and support staff to Douglas County, Oregon to assist the Oregon Department of Agriculture in its avian influenza response.

• Jan. 7, 2015 – WSDA adopts an emergency rule establishing an avian influenza quarantine zone in parts of Benton and Franklin counties where the two infected flocks were located.

• Jan. 9, 2015 – USDA dispatches team of 18 veterinarians, technicians and support staff to SE Washington to assist WSDA avian influenza response. The team’s purpose is to conduct surveillance and voluntary testing of birds in backyard flocks in a three kilometer area around the infected sites. The purpose of surveillance is to confirm that this is an isolated event and assure U.S. trade partners that the disease is not a threat to commercial poultry exports.

- Washington State Department of Agriculture

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.