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Washington State Prepares, But Little Winter Bird Flu Detected Yet

Anna King
Northwest News Network
File photo. Washington state agriculture officials euthanized thousands of birds during last year's bird flu outbreak

Last year several flocks throughout the Northwest were killed off and disposed of, plus many more in the Midwest. Now Washington state agriculture officials are better prepared for high-pathogenic strains of bird flu.

Joe Baker, the state’s lead veterinarian, said the federal government spent nearly $1 billion on bird flu response last winter. This year, Washington agriculture staff is talking with producers on a monthly bird flu question-answer call. They’ve also made a database of farmers to quicken state warning and response times.

The problem, Baker said, is how to reach and educate thousands of backyard flock owners.

“Someone yesterday in a meeting quoted a recent survey done in King County about backyard livestock and poultry ownership and they’ve basically discovered that there are chickens all over the place,” he said.

Baker said so far this winter, not much high-pathogenic bird flu has been found in wild birds from regular testing.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture investigation found that last winter’s cases were mainly caused by wild birds entering domestic flocks in the Northwest, while in the Midwest many infections were spread farm to farm by humans -- like delivery trucks for feed, garbage and rendering that traveled between separate properties.

In other cases, commercial poultry operations had good biosecurity plans, but workers and managers weren’t implementing those practices

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.