Bird Flu Found in ‘Backyard’ Oregon Poultry Flock, USDA Says

The disease known as bird flu has been found in a “backyard” poultry flock in Oregon, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said, adding that there’s no immediate public health concern.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza was detected in the flock of about 100 birds, comprised of guinea fowl and chickens, in Winston, Oregon, a unit of the USDA said today in a statement on its website.

“Birds from the affected backyard flock will not enter the food chain,” the USDA said. “All poultry, poultry products and wild birds are safe to eat as long as they are properly handled and cooked.”

The virus strain is H5N8 and has not been found in commercial poultry anywhere in the U.S., the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said. The agency also reported cases this week of virus strains of avian influenza in wild birds in Washington state.

“A commercial flock operated responsibly would have very little risk” of contagion, said Tom Elam, the president of FarmEcon LLC in Carmel, Indiana, who has studied the poultry market for more than 30 years. “It’s not something you want to panic about. But you have to realize that even in the best situation, things can happen. It’s disturbing, but at this point, it’s not a disaster.”

Canada Outbreak

A bird-flu outbreak in Canada’s westernmost province of British Columbia left poultry processors scrambling to find enough turkey for Christmas tables. About 155,000 birds in the Fraser Valley died of flu or were set to be euthanized with carbon dioxide gas and then composted after avian influenza was detected at eight sites. Washington state borders British Columbia.

“The bird flu is on the west coast of the U.S., and it’s being moved by these migratory birds that are being moved from north to south,” Will Sawyer, vice president of U.S. animal protein research for Rabobank International in Atlanta, said in a telephone interview. “That should give us confidence that if it does continue to move, it’ll move in that direction and not towards the southeastern U.S.,” where the American commercial poultry industry is centered, he said.

The virus strain in Oregon is the same that was found in captive Gyrfalcons in Whatcom County, Washington, the agency said. A separate strain, H5N2, was found in northern pintail ducks in Washington, the USDA said Dec. 16.

“The finding in Oregon was quickly reported and identified due to increased awareness of avian influenza in light of” the findings in Washington, the USDA said.

Strains of the disease have also been found in birds in Europe, India, Egypt and Mexico, according to Rabobank. The U.S., Taiwan and South Africa are among countries that have imposed temporary restrictions on poultry from British Columbia, the third-largest turkey-producing province in Canada.

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