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Bird flu reported near Riverside

— Bird owners near here are being asked to keep an eye on their flocks following an outbreak of avian influenza last weekend.

An owner of nearly 5,000 birds here reported Sunday that about 40 pheasants and 12 turkeys, said communications director Hector Castro with the state Department of Agriculture.

Avian influenza is very contagious, especially amongst poultry.

“Birds usually die from it within a couple days,” Castro said. “It can move very quickly through a flock.”

There have been recent outbreaks of avian influenza – two in Benton County and one in Clallam County. Those cases involved backyard flocks of about 100 birds each, Castro said.

Avian influenza also has been seen in wild birds in Whatcom County.

Tests Tuesday confirmed it was avian influenza, but the specific strain is not known at this time, Castro said.

As of today, teams fro the state Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Agriculture are in the Riverside are visiting owners of poultry.

“We are getting samples from the birds to test,” said Castro, who said the agencies are working with the Okanogan County Public Health Department and flock owners on a response plan.

The site of the infected flock, which Castro did not name, has been quarantined.

“No birds are being moved off that property,” he said.

Because the birds are on what is considered a game farm, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife requires testing, said Castro, who said a test in the fall found came back negative for avian flu.

Bird owners finding a death or illness in their flocks can report them to a hotline – 800-606-3056.

“This isn’t a human health issue,” Castro said. “To date there have been no cases in the U.S. of humans becoming ill or sick from any of these avian viruses.

“We are urging people not to go onto the property,” Castro said.

A common transmission of the virus is through bird feces.

“The last thing you would want to be doing is spreading the disease,” Castro said.

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