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NWHC Avian Influenza News
The latest news about Avian Influenza.

  • Hi-Path bird flu found in wild birds in Washington state
    WASHINGTON, Dec. 17, 2014 - USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic (HPAI) H5 avian influenza in wild birds in Whatcom County, Washington.Two separate virus strains were identified: HPAI H5N2 in northern pintail ducks and HPAI H5N8 in captive Gyrfalcons that were fed hunter-killed wild birds, USDA said in a news release. Neither virus has been found in commercial poultry anywhere in the U.S. and no human cases with these viruses have been detected in the U.S., Canada or internationally. There is no immediate public health concern with either of these avian influenza viruses, USDA said.Both H5N2 and H5N8 viruses have been found in other parts of the world and have not caused any human infection to date, according to USDA. While neither virus has been found in commercial poultry, federal authorities emphasize that poultry, poultry products and wild birds are safe to eat even if they carry the disease if they are properly handled and cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.The finding in Whatcom County was reported and identified quickly due to increased surveillance for avian influenza in light of HPAI H5N2 avian influenza outbreaks in commercial poultry farms in British Columbia, Canada.The northern pintail duck samples were collected by officials from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife following a waterfowl die-off at Wiser Lake, Washington, and were sent to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center for diagnostic evaluation and initial avian influenza testing. The U.S. Department of the Interior's USGS, which also conducts ongoing avian influenza testing of wild bird mortality events, identified the samples as presumptive positive for H5 avian influenza and sent them to USDA for confirmation. The gyrfalcon samples were collected after the falconer reported signs of illness in his birds.Following existing avian influenza response plans, USDA is working with the departments of Interior and Health and Human Services as well as state partners on additional surveillance and testing of both commercial and wild birds in the nearby area.Wild birds can be carriers of HPAI viruses without the birds appearing sick. People should avoid contact with sick/dead poultry or wildlife. If contact occurs, wash your hands with soap and water and change clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds.Learn about the benefits of subscribing to Agri-Pulse. Sign up for your four-week free trial Agri-Pulse subscription. HPAI would have significant economic impacts if detected in U.S. domestic poultry, USDA said. Commercial poultry producers follow strict biosecurity practices and raise their birds in very controlled environments. Federal officials emphasize that all bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts, should continue practicing good biosecurity. This includes preventing contact between your birds and wild birds, and reporting sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through a state veterinarian or through USDA's toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593. Additional information on biosecurity for backyard flocks can be found at considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections in wild birds to be low because (like H5N1) these viruses do not now infect humans easily, and even if a person is infected, the viruses do not spread easily to other people.Avian influenza (AI) is caused by influenza type A viruses which are endemic in some wild birds (such as wild ducks and swans) which can infect poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese and guinea fowl). AI viruses are classified by a combination of two groups of proteins: hemagglutinin or "H" proteins, of which there are 17 (H1-H17), and neuraminidase or "N" proteins, of which there are 10 (N1-N10). Many different combinations of "H" and "N" proteins are possible. Each combination is considered a different subtype, and can be further broken down into different strains. AI viruses are further classified by their pathogenicity-the ability of a particular virus to produce disease in domestic chickens.

  • Bird flu in Whatcom County linked to Wiser Lake area
    The two separate strains of bird flu traced to wild birds in Whatcom County have been linked to the Wiser Lake area, which is three miles southwest of Lynden.Tests identified the H5N2 virus in a northern pintail duck and H5N8 in four captive gyrfalcons fed what is believed to be a wild widgeon killed by a hunter, according to Hon Ip, a virologist with the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center.The pintail was part of a small die-off of birds at Wiser Lake and the widgeon came from an area near the lake, Ip said Wednesday, Dec. 17.Remains of the widgeon were sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Iowa for tests to confirm that it was the carrier of the virus that sickened the gyrfalcons, according to Ip. At least three of the falcons have died.Bird flu can be deadly to poultry and other birds. Its confirmation in Whatcom County has created concern among officials and residents here, including those with backyard chicken flocks, who are following news of an outbreak of bird flu in commercial poultry just over the border in British Columbia.And while the outbreak in Canada also has been linked to a H5N2 strain of the disease, Ip said officials dont yet know if its exactly the same strain found in the pintail duck at Wiser Lake.We dont have enough information between our virus and the Canadian virus to say that theyre identical. Theres a lot of similarities. We think the two viruses are related, Ip said.Officials also dont yet know whether wild birds at Wiser Lake spread the disease north to poultry operations in Canada, or whether Wiser Lake birds were exposed to the virus from those commercial poultry operations.The bird flu cases in Whatcom County were found quickly because of increased surveillance due to the B.C. outbreak, officials have said. But Ip also said that die-offs at Wiser Lake are tested for bird flu as a precaution to monitor for these kinds of introduction.The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife collected the pintail duck after a die-off of about 50 to 100 wild birds at Wiser Lake over a short period of time, Ip said. Such die-offs are usual at this time of the year at the lake, where some 10,000 birds gather, and officials have documented poisoning from lead shot or a fungal disease called aspergillosis in past years.Most of the birds those birds that died at Wiser Lake did so because of aspergillosis, according to Ip.Officials tracking the bird flu once again stressed on Wednesday that the H5N2 and H5N8 strains werent an immediate health concern for people because they have been found elsewhere in the world and have yet to infect humans.And there hasnt been a reported case of a person in the U.S. sickened with bird flu from an infected bird.Neither virus has been found in commercial poultry in the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said. And neither virus has been in the U.S. until now.Still, agriculture officials said that poultry, poultry products and wild birds are safe to eat even if they did carry the disease if they are properly handled and cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.Meanwhile, a town hall meeting has been organized for Thursday, Dec. 18, in Lynden for poultry producers and owners of backyard flocks.The Washington State Department of Agriculture and representatives from other agencies will be there to talk about the current situation in Washington state and in B.C.Agriculture officials said they picked Lynden for the public meeting because of its proximity to the Canadian border and because they plan to increase testing in the area. The two strains are highly contagious to chickens.Testing would be fine with Lauralee McLeod, who has a backyard flock of chickens at her Wiser Lake home.Were right in the flyway, she said.McLeod said her chickens arent sick but she thought officials might like to have data, given where she lives.Officials said that commercial producers and backyard bird enthusiasts can keep the flu away from their flocks by taking steps that include preventing contact with wild birds, but McLeod said that could be difficult. Her chickens are housed in a small coop and also are fenced in in a larger area.But being chickens they fly out, walk around. We dont have them enclosed in any kind of big building, she said.For her, the takeaway is that people need to be watching their flocks and not ignoring any symptoms or any die-offs.Because wild birds can carry bird flu viruses without appearing sick, officials also are telling people to avoid sick or dead poultry or wildlife.If contact does occur, people should wash their hands with soap and water and change their clothes before coming into contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds.The status of the die-offs was corrected Thursday, Dec. 18.Read more here:

  • WSU WADDL is site for latest avian influenza testing
    PULLMAN, Wash. Animal disease authorities both nationally and in Washington were already on high alert when in early December a large wild duck die-off occurred in northwest Washington.The event was soon under investigation by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The alertness and quick response were part of the multiagency disease surveillance vigilance that comes with knowing British Columbia, Canada, had begun dealing with an outbreak of HPAI (highly pathogenic avian influenza), strain H5N2, earlier this fall.On Dec. 9, samples from the ducks were tested for avian influenza (AI) at the Washington State University Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Puyallup, Wash. (WADDL-Puyallup). Results were presumptive positive for a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus.The highly pathogenic designation means it was an influenza virus capable of causing severe disease and high mortality in domestic poultry.On Dec. 11, a privately owned falcon from the same region was submitted by its owner to WADDL-Puyallup for cause-of-death determination. Based upon its history of being legally fed wild duck meat, testing for AI was initiated immediately. Within hours, results were presumptive positive for two indicators of HPAI.By protocol, additional samples from both cases were expedited to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa, for confirmatory testing and further virus characterization.Independently, samples were received by the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) in Madison, Wis. On Dec. 14, the falcon was confirmed positive for the H5N8 strain of AI, or HPAI H5N8.Almost simultaneously with the identification of HPAI in the falcon, a wild duck from the same geographical region of Washington was confirmed positive for HPAI H5N2.Immediately after the confirmation of HPAI in Washington, the USDA, Washington State Department of Agriculture, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington Department of Health and WSU WADDL collaborated with others to establish a pre-planned incident command structure and an aggressive enhanced surveillance program for AI.On Dec. 18, WSU WADDL-Pullman began receiving samples for HPAI testing in its Biosafety Level 3 (BSL3) testing laboratories, a core lab in the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.WADDLs experienced and highly trained laboratory staff use state-of-the-art equipment to conduct high throughput testing, meaning large volumes of samples and the shortest turnaround times. Combined with its information technology expertise and nationally standardized procedures, WADDL can effectively and safely conduct HPAI testing.It is expected that surveillance testing will continue for months and include analysis of perhaps thousands of samples. Should the situation worsen, WADDL and its partner laboratories in the National Animal Health Laboratory Network are prepared to handle whatever testing loads may arise. WADDL is also working closely with both NVSL and the NWHC in further diagnostic testing and characterization.Key information: On Dec.15, the USDA announced the presence of two strains of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in wild birds in Washington state. To date, both strains of HPAI are occurring ONLY in wild bird species in Washington. There is NO SIGN of the viruses in commercial poultry flocks. There is ALMOST NO RISK to human health as the disease has never been seen in people in the U.S. The many strains of AI occur commonly in wild birds worldwide and the disease risks are well known to both human and animal disease experts.Important information links:USDAAll bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts, are encouraged to practice good biosecurity, prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to state/federal officials, either through the state veterinarian or through USDAs toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593. Additional information on biosecurity for backyard flocks can be found at State Department of AgriculturePersons seeing sickness in domestic birds are asked to contact the WSDA Avian Health Program at 1-800-606-3056. Sick and dead wild birds should be reported to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at 1-800-606-8768. If you are concerned about sickness in yourself or your family, please contact Washington State Department of Health at 1-800-525-0127. See and State Department of Fish and WildlifeKristin Mansfield, WDFW Veterinarian, 509-892-1001, ext. 326, or cell 509-998-2023. See Contact:Charlie Powell, WSU College of Veterinary Medicine public information officer, call or text 509-595-2017,

  • Iceland Important Location for Study of Bird Flu

  • Tracking bird flu: US wildlife workers on the front line against deadly strains
    They were once featured on the show "Dirty Jobs" but the wildlife experts who spend weeks each year wrestling wild birds to swab their behinds for avian flu dont mind. Theyre happy to be on the front line, keeping an eye out for infected birds that might bring new and deadly strains of influenza to the United States.The programs been dialed back a bit since it started in 2005, but the U.S. Geological Survey and Fish and Wildlife Service experts are paying close attention to reports of a new and deadly strain of bird flu the H7N9 virus. Its infected 102 people in China at last count, and killed 20 of them.


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