5 possible cases of bird flu in Kennewick, Richland birds

Walking in bird droppings at Columbia Park in Kennewick could spread bird flu to other birds, including pets and poultry in the home, warns Lynn Tompkins, executive director of a regional bird rehabilitation organization. birds.

All parts of the park remain open to the public, but waterfowl there are thought to be infected with the H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus.

According to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, two goslings in the park have tested positive for avian flu from the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostics Laboratory, with confirmation from a federal lab in waiting.

Other goslings in the park were found sick or dead but were not tested. And adult waterfowl can also carry the infection without showing symptoms.

The Blue Mountain Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center in Pendleton also sent swabs to the state lab for a sandhill crane in Connell and a duckling and raven in Richland that also came back positive.

They aren’t added to a federal database until the results are verified in a federal lab, and the current backlogs are long, with the majority of states reporting outbreaks this spring.

“We just assume it’s here,” Tompkins said.

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A gosling joins mature Canada geese feeding on the grass near the Columbia Park fishing pond in Kennewick. Two goslings there have tested positive for bird flu, and other goslings are sick. Bob Brawdy bbrawdy@tricityherald.com

Waterfowl are most likely to be infected because they congregate in large numbers, she said.

That’s why Blue Mountain Wildlife has recommended that its volunteers stay out of Columbia Park in Kennewick at this time and made the same recommendations for others concerned about birds to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Low human risk

The risk of human illness is very low, but the virus is highly contagious and spreads easily among birds.

The City of Kennewick discussed whether to close the park with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Benton Franklin Health District and concluded that the risk to the public was weak and kept the park open.

But people should never handle sick or dead wildlife, warned Nick Farline, Kennewick’s new director of parks and recreation.

Blue Mountain Wildlife has not seen any cases linked to backyard bird feeders.

But Washington State Fish and Wildlife recommends wearing disposable gloves when cleaning bird feeders and washing your hands with soap and water when you’re done.

Report sick birds

Any sick or dead wild bird should be reported to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website. Search “report wildlife sightings” to find the correct form.

The state agency also picks up dead birds in the park. Raptors can pick them up and become infected.

Over the weekend, visitors reported more sick baby geese and Columbia Park.

Symptoms include walking in circles, seizures and standing still and letting people approach them, said Staci Lehman of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

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Two goslings at Columbia Park Fishing Pond in Kennewick have tested positive for bird flu, and other goslings in the park are showing symptoms. The popular fishing pond may be closed after federal lab tests are returned to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Bob Brawdy bbrawdy@tricityherald.com

The department urges people to leave sick birds alone.

“It’s just a sad situation,” Tompkin said. There is no treatment for cases of bird flu.

As the weather warms, there should be fewer infections, but there are concerns that cases could rebound in the fall, Tompkin said.

Hunters will have to be careful, if that’s the case.

They should not eat, drink or smoke while cleaning or processing birds and decontaminate tools and surfaces with a 10% bleach solution. All carcasses will need to be bagged and disposed of to prevent scavenging by raptors.

bird flu in humans

If you experience flu-like symptoms after contact with birds, contact the Benton Franklin Health District, state wildlife officials say.

Most known cases of human infection have occurred after prolonged contact with birds, according to the state agency. He also said, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that getting an annual flu shot could reduce the risk of bird flu infection.

Only one case of bird flu was reported in a person in the United States this spring, compared to 1,190 confirmed cases in wild birds and more than 38 million in poultry, according to the CDC.

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This screenshot from the Washington State Department of Agriculture website shows quarantine areas after bird flu was confirmed in backyard poultry flocks this spring. Courtesy of Washington State Department of Agriculture

No domestic flocks have been confirmed positive for avian influenza in the Tri-Cities region.

But infected geese and backyard chickens have been found elsewhere in the state. All herds have been euthanized and quarantine areas have been established.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture recommends confining domestic flocks to an area with a roof that does not allow water to pass through.

A single sick bird in a flock should be reported to your veterinarian. If more than one bird dies or suffers an unusual illness, you are asked to call the state’s sick bird hotline at 800-606-3056.

This story was originally published May 24, 2022 12:50 p.m.

Senior Writer Annette Cary covers Hanford, energy, environment, science and health for the Tri-City Herald. She was a journalist for over 30 years in the Pacific Northwest.

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