Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Bird flu outbreak raises alarms across state, region

The Washington State Department of Health and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a cautionary notice last week for the public to avoid contact with wild birds and other wild animals, especially sick or dead wild animals or their young.

Since early July, an outbreak of avian influenza, also known as bird flu, has been impacting wild birds and several seals near Port Townsend.

WDFW staff are monitoring and responding to the situation and have removed more than 1,700 dead Caspian terns and gulls from Rat Island and adjacent shores near Fort Flagler State Park. Preliminary results indicate three harbor seals from the same area were also infected with avian influenza. Confirmation testing is pending.

Recent detections of infected Caspian terns have also been documented along the lower Columbia River, as well as near the Port of Everett and Port of Tacoma.

People and their pets should avoid all contact with sick or dead wildlife. While avian influenza infections among people are rare, human infections can happen when the virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose, or mouth, or is inhaled. People may be at greater risk of bird flu virus infection during close or lengthy unprotected contact (not wearing respiratory protection or eye protection) with infected animals or surfaces contaminated with saliva, or feces of infected animals.

Dogs and other animals can become sick with avian influenza, and care should be taken to avoid contact between pets and sick or dead animals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture monitors infections in wild mammals across the U.S. Do not attempt to move sick wild animals to a veterinarian or rehabilitation center, or to your home, as this can spread the disease.

As resources are available, biologists may respond to remove carcasses and, if in an area or species where avian influenza has not been confirmed, test for the virus. Due to the magnitude of this outbreak, WDFW staff will not be able to respond to all reported cases.


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