Eggs, poultry and poultry products from domestic flocks can’t be moved out of much of the Tri-Cities because of an emergency quarantine declared to limit the spread of the highly contagious avian flu.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture quarantine took immediate effect Wednesday and covers about 20 miles near two Benton County locations where backyard flocks of chickens, turkeys, ducks and guinea fowl were found to have avian influenza.
Humans can’t catch the disease, but it’s deadly to birds so officials are trying to keep it from spreading to other flocks. The quarantine could be in effect for up to eight months.
It’s OK to buy eggs, chicken breasts and other poultry products from the grocery store and take it home. But you’re not allowed to get eggs and meat from someone else’s backyard flock.
Avian flu has been found in two Benton County backyard flocks in the past two weeks. And more than 700 birds have died or been euthanized.
This is the first time avian flu has been found in a backyard flock in Washington. No U.S. commercial flocks have been affected.
The commercial industry has a robust avian influenza testing program, say officials. Inspectors perform weekly testing and health inspections at live bird markets in the state.
Officials say the biggest risk is that migratory wild waterfowl could spread the disease to other backyard flocks.
The quarantine prevents Tri-Citians from transporting any chickens, turkeys, waterfowl, pigeons, doves and any other domestic fowl outside the area.
The prohibition also applies to pheasants, partridges, chukars, quail and grouse. Those birds all are considered potential hosts for avian influenza.
“The idea is to try to limit the chance of greater exposure to avian influenza,” said Hector Castro, the state Department of Agriculture’s communications manager.
Eggs and living and dead poultry on properties within the quarantine area are not supposed to be moved to other properties within the quarantine area, according to the emergency rule.
And any vehicles, equipment and clothing that comes into contact with poultry must be disinfected before leaving any property within the quarantine zone, according the the emergency rule. Items that can’t be disinfected can’t be transported.
The quarantine covers most of Richland, up to the border with the Hanford nuclear reservation, most of West Richland and the Badger Canyon area, according to state documents.
Kennewick west of Columbia Center Boulevard also is part of the quarantine area. The area extends south to Locust Grove Road and west over to about Clodius Road.
The quarantine also extends over the Columbia River to include Franklin County south of Birch Road and west of Taylor Flats Road.
Exemptions from the quarantine are possible, Castro said. Businesses that can show their establishments have strong biosecurity measures in place to protect the health of their birds can get special permission to move eggs, poultry or poultry products.
A Benton City flock was the first to have sick and dying birds in the region. The birds had access to a pond visited by wild waterfowl, which have been known to carry avian influenza.
About 100 ducks from a Richland flock had visited the Benton City flock, said officials.
The birds in both flocks that had not already died were euthanized by officials Monday and Tuesday as part of an effort to control the spread of the disease. Some of them were already getting sick. Poultry that catch the disease usually die within three days.
No new cases of avian influenza had been found by Wednesday afternoon. And the test results for another backyard flock living near the Benton City flock came back negative for avian influenza, Castro said.
The strain of influenza found in the Benton City birds — H5N2 — is the same as the one found earlier in a wild pintail duck in Whatcom County and in outbreaks in Canada.
Tests have confirmed that the Richland flock had avian influenza, Castro said. Officials are still waiting for the USDA to confirm the exact strain.
USDA officials will contact property owners within about six miles of both sites to check to see if any other domestic birds have been infected. Those birds would be tested with owner permission. From poultry, a swab is taken from the inside of its beak. With waterfowl, feces are tested.
State officials used the area the USDA plans to check as the basis for the quarantine.
For more details on how to get a special permit to move birds or eggs, go to it www.agr.wa.gov/lawsrules/rulemaking.
The map of the quarantine area and the emergency rule also are available there.