Washington State Veterinarian advises live poultry markets to close amid bird flu concerns

YAKIMA, Wash. — “We don’t want to panic anybody and we don’t think anything is really going to happen but it is kind of a common sense thing, better safe than sorry,” Staci Lehman with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said.

While they’re not too worried about a spread from birds to humans, they are worried about backyard and commercial flocks getting sick.

“A wild bird can get in amongst a flock of domestic birds and pass it to them — try to keep them inside and away from wild birds,” Lehman added.

Amber Betts with the Washington State Department of Agriculture said they’ve been in constant communication with Washington’s commercial growers.

“Meeting, talking, planning, what do you need to kind of enhance biosecurity, but also kind of plan ahead if there was a detection what would that look like?” Betts said they want growers to be prepared in case a bird gets sick.

Officials said unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for the strain of bird flu and if one bird gets sick, the entire flock needs to be euthanized.

As the bird flu spreads, including a presumptive case in goslings at Columbia Park,  Washington State Veterinarian Dr. Amber Itle is recommending live poultry markets close.

“Our state veterinarian’s office did recommend that live bird markets do close. Right now, it’s a recommendation, not a mandate and the reason for that is we want to make sure if they do continue that we are able to track if an infection takes place there,” Betts said.

Betts said another reason they haven’t mandated live poultry market closures is to prevent people from hosting markets anyways in parking lots where virus spread can’t be tracked.

They’re just hoping both domestic and commercial poultry growers increase biosecurity by ensuring wild birds can’t contact their flocks, which could prevent the spread of a brutal flu.

“The implications on trade, the implications on our food supply are quite severe. It’s just devastating, it’s devastating for the flock owners, it’s devastating for the veterinarians kind of come in and help with this. We have so many backyard flock owners, they get their eggs from their flock but also, they’re really members of their family they have names they have outfits,” Betts said it’s devastating when an entire flock has to be euthanized.

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