State calls for halt to live poultry sales due to bird flu

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — As bird flu strikes nine flocks scattered across seven counties, the Washington State Department of Agriculture on Thursday called for live market sales to cease for the next 30 days. .

Closing is not mandatory.

Confirmed cases of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza have appeared in nine small backyard flocks in Thurston, Pierce, Pacific, Clallam, Spokane, Whatcom and Okanogan counties since May 5, the agency said.

Washington state veterinarian Dr. Amber Itle said bird flu has been reported in 35 states this year.

“We are one of the last states to be affected,” she told a news conference.

The nine infected locations consisted of backyard flocks with high exposure to wild waterfowl. No commercial herds were infected. Commercial poultry products remain safe to eat, the agency said.

Itle said bird flu does not appear to pose a human health risk at this time and is unlikely to have an impact on dogs, cats or other pets. But she warned pet owners to keep their animals away from dead birds.

Markets that choose to continue bird sales risk transmitting disease, state officials said. If a case of HPAI were detected in connection with a market, there would be significant impacts. The market would face extensive animal tracing and extensive cleaning and disinfection requirements, officials said.

The WSDA has contacted all markets that sell live birds and advised them to stop sales. Some markets had already voluntarily stopped selling birds even before receiving advice from the state veterinarian.

“It is recommended that sales of poultry and waterfowl be temporarily suspended until detections across Washington slow down. It may extend to the end of June,” Itle said.

For markets that choose to remain open, Itle has made several recommendations to reduce the risk of disease transmission, including strengthening biosecurity measures, only selling birds for slaughter, banning birds with signs disease, keeping the birds in transport containers and not mixing them.

So far, infected herds have been relatively small backyard herds.

“Stopping these sales not only protects these backyard flocks, but also small and large commercial flocks,” Itle said. “It’s about reducing risk. Bringing birds together from different flocks definitely increases the chances for this virus to spread and impact more birds.

Sallie R. Loera