Avian influenza

Avian influenza is caused by influenza Type A virus (influenza A) and is commonly found in wild and domestic birds. Avian influenza viruses are classified as either “low pathogenic” or “highly pathogenic” based on their genetic features and the severity of the disease they cause in poultry. Most viruses are of low pathogenicity, meaning they cause no signs or only minor clinical signs of infection in poultry. Wild birds can be infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) and show no signs of illness. They can carry the disease to new areas when migrating, potentially exposing domestic poultry to the virus. HPAI is fatal in poultry and spreads quickly.

How do I report sick or dead birds in Washington?

Domestic bird deaths should be reported to the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Sick Bird Hotline at 800-606-3056. Wild bird deaths can be reported using the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Online Reporting Tool.

How can I test my flock for avian influenza?

If you are concerned about avian Influenza infection in your poultry, contact the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) prior to submitting samples to WADDL, which is handling all testing for avian influenza in backyard flocks and wild birds in Washington state. WSDA contact information can be found at https://agr.wa.gov/birdflu.

Initial testing is performed using PCR (direct detection of genetic material) at WADDL. You can reach the WADDL main office at 509-335-9696.

What are the symptoms of avian influenza?

Low pathogenic avian influenza viruses cause mild respiratory signs such as sneezing, coughing, ocular and nasal discharge, and occasionally swollen infraorbital sinuses in poultry. There is commonly decreased egg production and fertility in layers and breeders.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses can cause severe, systemic disease with high mortality in chickens, turkeys, and other poultry; mortality can be as high as 100% in a few days.  

How can I prevent the spread of avian influenza?

The best way to prevent infection is by practicing good biosecurity. It is important to avoid cross-contamination between poultry farms and to keep poultry separate from wild waterfowl. Wear clean clothes and disinfect boots and shoes before and after being around poultry. Thoroughly wash your hands and clothes after contact with birds and avoid visiting other farms.

For more information on biosecurity for poultry, go to the USDA’s Biosecurity for Birds webpage.

How can I find out where avian influenza has been detected?

The United States has the strongest avian influenza surveillance program in the world. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service provides up-to-date maps and information about recent outbreaks for domestic and wild birds.

Page revised May 2022