Highly Contagious Bird Flu Found in Oregon; Bend owner of chickens taking precautions

(Update: Add video, comments from owner of Bend chickens, press conference)

CDC says it poses no immediate public health concern

BEND, Oregon (KTVZ) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspectorate on Friday confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a non-commercial (non-poultry) flock in Linn County — the first confirmed case in Oregon since 2015.

And since the outbreak has been spreading for some time, with millions of chickens and turkeys culled, many bird owners, including in the High Desert, have already taken precautions.

Southwest Bend chicken owner Annie Chrietzberg told NewsChannel 21 Friday that she was aware of the growing nationwide outbreak. She says she saw it on the news and that there are two active groups on Facebook for local chicken owners. She started taking precautions last week to save her birds.

Chrietzberg’s chickens are in her backyard, fenced in and protected from the sky and wild birds. She said she would isolate them completely if necessary. The birds’ food and water are located under the canopy, so that wild bird droppings cannot get in.

“We bought a carport canopy so that if the bird flu goes through, we can enclose the chickens during the day, and part of that enclosure is to keep all the wild birds away,” Chrietzberg said. “So I have four walls that I can enclose them with, and I have the canopy with windows that can go up so they can ventilate.”

Several geese in a non-commercial flock of about 100 waterfowl died suddenly on a farm in Linn County, and federal authorities confirmed Friday that they died of bird flu. Also Friday, authorities in Washington state received word that chickens and turkeys in a flock of about 50 birds on a non-commercial farm in Pacific County, Washington, also had the disease.

Dana R. Dobbs, a Washington State veterinarian, said, “In this particular outbreak, it has been introduced primarily by migrating wild waterfowl, and right now the birds are migrating back north.”

Chrietzberg has chickens because of the quality of their eggs.

“I’ve always wanted to have chickens, and when I bought this house a year ago, I was able to,” she said. “The eggs are great because my birds get fresh vegetables every morning – kale, cilantro and parsley, and fermented grains. They’re very spoiled. They’re not really farm animals, they’re more like pets.”

She said she loves sitting outside on a nice day and watching Peri, Fernando and Margarite.

Some of the infected birds in Linn County have died. The Oregon Department of Agriculture says the rest will be humanely euthanized.

HPAI (H5N1) is a highly contagious virus that is easily transmitted between wild and domestic bird species. However, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the recent HPAI detection does not pose an immediate public health problem.

“We knew HPAI was coming our way after a bald eagle in British Columbia tested positive in early March,” said Dr. Ryan Scholz, state veterinarian with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. “Since that discovery, we have worked hard to communicate with our commercial poultry farmers, veterinarians and the public on how to protect their flocks.

“More than ever before, all bird owners must implement good biosecurity, avoid contact between their birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual deaths so that ODA can guarantee testing.”

A rapid response is needed to prevent the spread of HPAI, ODA said Friday. The owner of the affected backyard flock reported the deaths and delivered at least one of the birds to Oregon State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for initial sample testing. Samples were also sent to APHIS’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory.

Meanwhile, ODA quickly quarantined the affected property. ODA will humanely euthanize any additional birds on the property to prevent the spread of the disease. Birds from this farm were not used as food and will not enter the food system. There are no detections in commercial poultry in the state.

ODA and federal partners are collaborating on additional surveillance and testing in the nearby area, following existing plans for avian influenza response.

dr. Ryan Scholz, Oregon’s state veterinarian, said of the Linn County case: “However long it goes, the producer noticed that one day a crow flew in with some of his chickens — and the next day he literally described them as fell like flies.”

“We want to contain and eradicate this disease as soon as possible, to protect our commercial poultry industry, as well as some of our backyard flocks that sell eggs and do things like that,” Scholz said.

The cases pose no risk to humans and birds from the farms were not used as food.

Northwest wildlife and agriculture officials said the virus appears to primarily affect waterfowl, but people feeding songbirds should take extra steps to regularly clean their feeders out of an abundance of caution.

There are no detections of bird flu in commercial poultry in either state, they said

If you find a sick or dying bird, ODA asks you not to touch it; report it. For domesticated birds, please report by calling ODA at 1-800-347-7028 or emailing npip@oda.oregon.gov. For wild birds, call and report to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife by calling 1-866-968-2600.

For more information on HPAI, visit the ODA’s Avian Influenza webpage. You will learn about bird flu, its signs, symptoms and ways to protect your birds.

APHIS also has materials on biosafety, including videos, checklists, and a toolkit available at Defend the Flock Resource Center.

Everyone involved in poultry production, from the small backyard to the large commercial producer, needs to review their biosecurity activities to ensure the health of their birds. In addition, the USDA updates the latest HPAI detections on its website.

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