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Be careful around wild animals and dead birds

You’ve likely heard of avian influenza, also known as bird flu. We’ve had cases in Pierce County in recent years in backyard flocks and wild birds.

Washington State Department of Health (DOH) issued a news release last week about recent cases in the Puget Sound, including at the Port of Tacoma.

Bird flu doesn’t pose a major risk to you and me, but it could harm our wild and domestic bird populations and our pets.

Know what to look for—and what to avoid.

What is avian influenza?

Bird flu is a Type A flu virus. These viruses occur naturally in wild aquatic birds, but can also infect poultry like chickens, turkeys, pheasants, ducks, and geese.

Bird flu viruses rarely infect people but can affect those who have had close contact with infected birds.

Since January 2022, a strain of H5N1 avian influenza has been circulating in wild birds around the world. It also infected domestic poultry, including commercial and backyard flocks, and other wild and domestic mammals.

No treatment is available for wild species and most birds that become ill with bird flu will die from it.

What can you do to prevent the spread?

You can take simple steps to reduce the potential risk of spreading bird flu to your pets, poultry, family, and friends.

  • Do not touch or try to rehabilitate sick or dead birds or wildlife.
  • Keep your pets on leads to prevent them from scavenging or interacting with ill or dead wildlife. Be extra careful around beaches and places where large numbers of waterfowl gather.
  • Report your concerns about sick or dead birds or wildlife to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
  • Wash your hands often—always before you eat and after outdoor activity.
  • If you have outdoor birds like ducks, chickens, or turkeys, watch them closely for signs of illness or sudden death in the flock. If this happens, report it to WDFW.
  • Clean and disinfect all equipment like boots, clothes and vehicles to prevent spreading disease from one area to another.
  • Bird hunters should follow standard safety steps to avoid potential exposure to avian influenza and other viruses or bacteria.

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A flock of birds flies over a beach