Whatcom County Health Department and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) ask the public to avoid contact with sick and dead birds to prevent the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), also called bird flu.
Western Washington, including Whatcom County, has seen periodic HPAI infections in backyard poultry flocks in the past year. The virus is spreading right now in wild birds migrating through the area, like Canada geese and snow geese. Close to 400 sick or dead geese were found recently at Wiser Lake, with several of them testing positive for HPAI. It is standard practice for DFW to test a representative sample and not every bird in situations like this.
What to do if you find a sick or dead wild bird or animal
- Do not touch or handle any sick bird or other wild animal and do not attempt to transport them to a veterinarian or your own property for treatment. Moving sick animals can spread the virus to areas where it wasn’t before.
- Use this online form to report sick/dead wild birds suspected of having avian influenza to the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.
- Report sick/dead domestic birds to Washington State Department of Agriculture's Avian Health Program: 1-800-606-3056 or visit Avian Influenza | Washington State Department of Agriculture for more information about how to protect backyard flocks
- Keep an eye on pets to ensure they do not come in contact with dead or sick animals that may have been exposed to HPAI.
- If you need to move a dead animal to keep your pet away from it, wear disposable gloves, double-bag the animal, and push it deep into the trash to keep scavengers away from it.
- Bird hunters should follow standard safety steps, including not disposing of carcasses in the field. Double-bag the animal and put it in the trash.
How to protect your domestic flock from avian influenza
- Protect your flock from coming into contact with wild birds by confining them to an area with a roof that doesn’t let water through.
- Remove/drain or dispose of items that may attract wild waterfowls, such as ponds or water features.
- Watch for signs of sickness in poultry such as lack of energy and appetite, decreased egg production, diarrhea, and similar symptoms of illness. Report birds with these symptoms to the Washington Department of Agriculture at 1-800-606-3056.
HPAI is very contagious among birds, but the risk to people is low. This current strain of bird flu does not appear to easily infect humans. As a precautionary measure, people who have had known contact with infected birds should contact the Whatcom County Health Department.
Chicken, eggs and other poultry and poultry products are safe to eat when properly handled and fully cooked. Be sure to follow these tips for safe handling and preparation of food.
For more information:
For more information on how to protect your backyard flock, visit the USDA’s Defend the Flock webpage.
For Public Questions:
- About sick or dead domestic animals: [email protected]
- About sick or dead wildlife animals: [email protected]
- About human health concerns: Contact your healthcare provider or call 360-778-6100 and ask to speak to a public health nurse.