Washington state implements quarantine after backyard flocks fall ill

Avian flu fears prompt 30 countries to ban poultry imports from Pacific Northwest

By Heidi Parsons contact

- Last updated on GMT

Avian influenza H5N2 has been found in backyard flocks in Washington state.
Avian influenza H5N2 has been found in backyard flocks in Washington state.

Related tags: Avian influenza, Influenza

Anxiety about the detection of avian influenza (AI) in Washington state has prompted nearly two dozen countries to ban imports of poultry from the Pacific Northwest this week.

The European Union (EU), the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Dominican Republic announced their bans yesterday, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

Other countries that have barred poultry imports from either Oregon, Washington, or both states since January 5 include Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, Indonesia, and a number of Central American nations. They join New Zealand, Russia and Jordan, which issued their bans in late December of 2014.

The bans have occurred despite the fact that Washington’s bird flu cases have been limited to two small, noncommercial (or “backyard”) poultry flocks in one county. Oregon also has reported detecting avian influenza in one small backyard flock.

“We know it’s H5N2, but we don’t know the precise strain,”​ Mike Louisell, a public information officer with the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), told FoodProductionDaily.

“Therefore, we don’t know if the flu cases here are in any way related to the large avian influenza outbreak just to the north of us in British Columbia (Canada),” he said. “What we do know is that avian flu has not been found in any commercial poultry flocks in Washington State — or anywhere else in the US.”

No endorsement = no imports

Nevertheless, the flu strains in these outbreaks are considered “highly pathogenic,” so FSIS has posted the following statement on its website:

“FSIS has been informed by APHIS (USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Information Service) that until further notice, due to the finding of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a backyard flock in Oregon and Washington, the certification statement referring to the United States as free from HPAI cannot be endorsed.”

Map showing avian flu quarantine area
This map provided by the Washington Department of Agriculture shows the avian flu quarantine area in Benton and Franklin counties.

“Health certificates with certification statements referring to HPAI freedom in a state, region, zone or area can be endorsed for all states except Oregon and Washington. FSIS is updating the individual country export requirements as soon as information is received from APHIS.”

Louisell said that at the two locations where AI has been detected, the affected flocks were humanely depopulated and the premises are being cleaned and disinfected.

In addition, the state this week announced a quarantine to control poultry movement in Tri-Cities area in the southeastern part of the state (see map above). The quarantine covers an area of roughly 20 miles around the two locations where avian influenza was identified.

Oh, Canada

The emergence of AI cases in Washington and Oregon comes just as the large and deadly avian influenza outbreak in British Columbia appears to be winding down.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) yesterday posted an update on its website, which said the Agency “is continuing its response to an outbreak of avian influenza in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley.”

No new sites have been identified since December 19, 2014, and depopulation of the infected premises is complete. The Agency is monitoring the progress of disposal of dead birds, and cleaning and disinfection of barns, vehicles, equipment and tools on the infected premises.”

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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