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PostPosted: Wed Dec 24, 2014 5:26 pm 
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Precautions, vigilance urged for avian influenza
Date Posted: Wednesday, December 24th, 2014
Categories: Department of Agriculture DNREC

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DOVER – Delaware authorities are urging poultry and bird owners to be vigilant in the wake of avian influenza cases reported in Oregon and Washington state.

“Though it’s far away at the moment, we know that avian influenza can spread rapidly,” said Delaware State Veterinarian Dr. Heather Hirst, who heads the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Poultry and Animal Health Section. “Poultry growers and owners of backyard flocks can do their part by taking proper biosecurity precautions to prevent against the spread of the disease.”

There are no immediate public health concerns due to the West Coast cases, and avian influenza does not affect poultry meat or egg products, which remain safe to eat. Delaware’s commercial poultry industry has a strong and active avian influenza surveillance program, and works in close contact with the Delaware Department of Agriculture, the University of Delaware, and other partners.

Avian influenza spreads bird-to-bird through saliva, feces, and other bodily fluids. Since many species of wild waterfowl can carry and shed influenza virus in feces without showing any signs of illness, it is extremely important to make a strong effort to keep domestic birds separated from wild waterfowl and to keep domestic birds off waterways where wild waterbirds live.

“Low pathogenic forms of avian influenza naturally occur in wild birds such as waterfowl, shorebirds and gulls, and in most cases cause no signs of infection or only mild symptoms,” said Rob Hossler, Wildlife Administrator for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Division of Fish and Wildlife. “However, when domestic species and wildlife intermix, occasionally a high pathogenic form can develop which can cause increased mortality to one or both of the groups.”

While the Washington and Oregon strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has not been found in commercial poultry in the United States, Hirst said its detection in a backyard poultry flock and captive gyrfalcons on the West Coast makes monitoring of backyard flocks and other birds extremely important.

“All bird or poultry owners can implement basic biosecurity steps to keep their flocks healthy and safe,” Hirst said. “Reporting sick or dead birds is especially critical to keeping avian influenza from spreading.”

Biosecurity measures recommended by the Delaware Department of Agriculture include isolating birds from visitor and other birds; keeping shoes, tools, equipment, vehicles and cages clean when entering area where birds live; avoiding tracking wild waterfowl feces into domestic bird living areas; avoiding sharing equipment and tools with neighbors; watching for warning signs of disease; and reporting sick or dead birds.

Sick or dead domestic birds, including backyard flocks and commercial poultry, should be reported to the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Poultry and Animal Health Section, (302) 698-4500 or (800) 282-8685 (Delaware only). To report groups of dead or sick waterfowl, shorebirds or gulls, contact DNREC’s Wildlife Section – Wildlife Disease Program, 302-735-3600.

For more information on backyard bird flock biosecurity, visit http://healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov/.

# # #

Media contact:
Dan Shortridge
Chief of Community Relations
Delaware Department of Agriculture
302-698-4520
daniel.shortridge@state.de.us

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Delaware Department of Agriculture Website

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DNREC's Website

http://news.delaware.gov/2014/12/24/pre ... influenza/

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2015 11:51 pm 
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Highly pathogenic bird flu confirmed for first time in wild raptors in Whatcom, Skagit
BY KIE RELYEA
The Bellingham Herald
February 6, 2015

Two hawks in Whatcom and Skagit counties are the first confirmed cases of highly pathogenic bird flu in wild raptors in North America.

The Cooper’s hawk was collected in Whatcom County on Dec. 29 and the red-tailed hawk in Skagit County on Jan. 9. Tests confirmed Jan. 26 that both had the H5N2 strain of bird flu.

Highly pathogenic means the strains can be deadly to domestic chickens and turkeys.

The hawks died of other causes — one struck a power line, the other was preyed on by something else — but a necropsy after their deaths showed that the flu was affecting their organs and other tissue, according to Don Kraege, waterfowl section manager for the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Still, the findings worry wildlife officials.

“We are concerned about impacts on raptors,” Kraege said. “They typically have smaller population sizes.”

It’s unknown how the hawks got the flu. They usually eat upland birds and small mammals, such as mice, not waterfowl, which are carriers of the virus, according to Kraege.

“We’re not really sure on the pathway, how they got avian influenza,” he said. “I wouldn’t rule it out that they’re eating some waterfowl, but it’s not the primary part of their diet.”

The two raptors were among the hundreds of wild birds that have been sampled to determine how widespread the highly pathogenic bird flu is in the wild. Results are still some weeks out, and will be used to create a plan for follow-up surveillance.

Wild waterfowl carry the flu but don’t show symptoms. So sampling focused primarily on wild ducks, especially the top four killed by hunters: green-winged teals, widgeons, mallards and northern pintails.

Testing was stepped up here after Canadian inspectors first confirmed the highly pathogenic H5N2 strain at two British Columbia poultry farms in the first week of December.

The week after that, fish and wildlife officials tested two birds found dead in Whatcom County. One was a northern pintail duck, which actually died because of aspergillosis, a fungal disease that birds can contract from eating moldy grain in fields and farm yards. But the duck also carried a strain of bird flu similar to the one that caused the outbreak in B.C.

The other was a gyrfalcon used for hunting; it was fed a wild widgeon, a type of duck, by its owner. Testing showed an H5N8 strain of the virus in the gyrfalcon. The bird was one of four captive gyrfalcons fed the widgeon. All died after, but just one was tested.

The gyrfalcon deaths turned wildlife officials’ attention to raptors.

Both the wild pintail and widgeon were traced to the Wiser Lake area.

The initial findings marked the first time wild birds in North America were found to have highly pathogenic bird flu, and raised concerns for domesticated backyard flocks that come into contact with wild birds in Whatcom County and elsewhere in the region.

Then on Jan. 16, a third strain of highly pathogenic bird flu was confirmed in a wild duck in Whatcom County when tests found the H5N1 strain in a green-winged teal killed by a hunter near Sumas.

Bird flu hasn’t been reported in backyard flocks in Whatcom County, although poultry owners are being urged to keep their birds from coming into contact with wild birds.

Officials have said all three strains aren’t dangerous to the general public because none has infected a human being. Still, they advised those who have backyard flocks, for example, to use caution.

Bird flu hasn’t been found in commercial poultry in Washington state or the U.S.

Meanwhile, wildlife officials continue to encourage the public to contact them if they find dead or sick wild birds, especially raptors.

Sick or dead wild birds can be reported by calling 1-800-606-8768.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com.

Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2015/02 ... rylink=cpy

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2015 2:47 pm 
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Swabs taken from 500 birds in Whatcom County to test for bird flu
BY KIE RELYEA
The Bellingham HeraldJanuary 11, 2015
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Trumpeter swans and ducks congregate by the thousands on Wiser Lake south of Lynden Feb. 5, 2014. MATT MCDONALD — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Swabs were taken from about 500 wild birds in Whatcom County by officials who want to know how widespread a highly pathogenic bird flu is among the region’s wild birds.

They were among more than 1,000 samples taken within the past month from birds killed by hunters, with most of those coming from Whatcom, Skagit and Clark counties, according to Don Kraege, waterfowl section manager for the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Highly pathogenic means the strains also can be deadly to domestic chickens and turkeys.

Wild birds, specifically waterfowl, carry the flu but don’t show symptoms. So sampling focused on wild ducks, especially the top four killed by hunters: green-winged teals, widgeons, mallards and northern pintails.

The sampling started after tests found two highly pathogenic strains in wild birds in Whatcom County last month. Testing was stepped up here after Canadian inspectors first confirmed the highly pathogenic H5N2 strain at two British Columbia poultry farms in the first week of December.

The week after that, fish and wildlife officials tested two birds found dead in Whatcom County. One was a northern pintail duck, which actually died because of aspergillosis, a fungal disease that birds can contract from eating moldy grain in fields and farm yards. But the duck also carried a strain of bird flu similar to the one that caused the outbreak in B.C.

The other was a captive gyrfalcon used for hunting and fed a wild widgeon, a type of duck, by its owner. Testing showed an H5N8 strain of the virus in the gyrfalcon. The bird was one of four captive gyrfalcons fed the widgeon. All died after, but just one was tested.

Both the wild pintail and widgeon were traced to the Wiser Lake area.

It marked the first time wild birds in North America were found to have highly pathogenic bird flu, and raised concerns for domesticated backyard flocks that come into contact with wild birds in Whatcom County and other parts of the state.

“It was a huge finding that had never occurred before. That raised all kinds of alarms as far as impacts to backyard poultry farms,” Kraege explained. “We know it’s in the population now, but how prevalent is it?”

An analysis of the samples could be completed this week and provide answers to that question.

Because of the possible impact on backyard flocks, state and federal agriculture officials have urged poultry owners to keep their birds from coming into contact with wild birds, especially since migratory waterbirds — ducks, geese and shorebirds — are migrating south from Alaska along the Pacific Flyway.

Officials stress that the highly pathogenic strains don’t seem to be dangerous to people and that they haven’t been found in commercial poultry in the U.S. or Washington state.

Wildlife officials have documented the prevalence of low-pathogenic strains, which are common in waterfowl.

Fish and wildlife officials tested more than 10,000 wild birds for bird flu viruses from 2005 to 2011. They found the viruses in about 10 percent of all birds tested, but noted that none caused illnesses or deaths.

What is worrying officials this time around is the gyrfalcon death.

“With avian influenza, water birds have evolved with that over many years. Similarly the things that eat those ducks have evolved with those viruses too,” Kraege said, so officials expected more resistance from the raptor.

Still, he said, there have been a couple of cases of raptors in Europe and Asia that died from the same kind of virus.

“It’s unusual but it has happened before,” Kraege said.

Still, it’s a concern because raptor numbers are lower than those of waterfowl.

Meanwhile, wildlife officials continue to encourage the public to contact them if they find dead or sick wild birds, especially raptors.

“We’re looking at raptors more than we typically would,” Kraege said.

Sick or dead wild birds can be reported by calling 1-800-606-8768.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com.

Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2015/01 ... rylink=cpy

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