Wild Birds in Washington State Test Positive for Avian Influenza

Media Contacts:
Krysta Rogers, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 358-1662
Clark Blanchard, CDFW Communications, (916) 651-7824

Two different strains of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses (H5N2 and H5N8) were isolated from two birds in northwestern Washington as reported on Tuesday, Dec. 16. HPAI has not been detected in domestic poultry or wild birds in California and there is no immediate public health concern with either of these viruses. The virus strains identified in Washington are not known to cause illness in humans. Additionally, there are no cases of infection in hunting dogs.

Influenza A viruses naturally circulate in wild bird populations, primarily in species that are associated with an aquatic habitat. These viruses rarely cause clinical signs in infected individual birds, and most circulating avian influenza strains in wild birds are low pathogenic. Viruses are classified as highly pathogenic or low pathogenic based on their ability to cause disease in domestic poultry.

Hunters are reminded to practice routine precautions when handling game. Hunters should wear rubber or disposable latex or nitrile gloves, wash their hands, and thoroughly clean knives, equipment and surfaces that come into contact with game. Wild game should be cooked thoroughly (internal temperature of 165° F). See the National Wildlife Health Center website for more information: http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/publications/wildlife_health_bulletins/WHB_05_03.jsp.

Between 2006 and 2011, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, collected samples from thousands of wild birds (primarily waterfowl) in California and tested them for avian influenza. No HPAI was detected in any of the samples. Additionally, over 450,000 migratory birds representing 284 species were tested throughout the United States during this time and no HPAI was detected in any of them. At that time, CDFW prepared a surveillance and response plan which can be found here: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/WIL/disease/avianflu/.

CDFW will continue to monitor for mortality events in California involving wild birds. Carcasses from these would be tested for avian influenza viruses as per routine protocol. Any specific HPAI surveillance would be conducted in collaboration with our state and federal partners.

Avian mortality events in California can be reported to the CDFW Wildlife Investigations Lab through the mortality reporting form located here: http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Laboratories/Wildlife-Investigations/Monitoring/Mortality-Report.