The threat of a spread of avian influenza in the Pacific Northwest has prompted more than 30 countries, including those in the European Union, to ban poultry imports from the region, according to USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) established an emergency quarantine zone for avian influenza over an area roughly 20 miles in size where avian influenza has been identified in flocks of mixed poultry and other birds.
The quarantine area restricts the movement of eggs, poultry or poultry products out of the identified zone.
On January 2, WSDA activated a multi-agency response plan following the confirmation of highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza in domestic birds in a Benton County flock. Later, a second infected flock was identified in the area. Work to control the spread of the virus was completed January 6 at both locations. The joint team of WSDA and USDA officials will now work to clean and disinfect the two sites.
USDA plans to increase the amount of testing of poultry and other domestic birds within an area 10 kilometers around the two flocks.
In late-December 2014, USDA’s Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic H5 avian influenza in wild birds in Washington state.
According to APHIS, two strains were identified in northern pintail ducks and captive Gyrfalcons that were fed hunter-killed wild birds.
Neither strand of virus has been found in any commercial poultry in the US, and APHIS says there is no immediate public health concern.
Authorities with the U.S. Department of Agriculture also emphasize that poultry, poultry products and wild birds are safe to eat, even if they carry the disease, provided they are properly handled and cooked to a temperature of 165°F.
The US response to the flu’s presence in Washington state was swiftly reported and acted on in light of the avian flu outbreaks in December of last year that affected commercial poultry farms in British Columbia, Canada.
USDA says the virus would have significant economic impacts if detected in US domestic poultry. 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.