For immediate release: September 1, 2023 (23-121)
Contact: DOH Communications
Avoid contact with wild animals
OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) caution the public to avoid contact with wild birds and other wild animals, especially sick or dead wild animals or their young.
An outbreak of avian influenza, also known as bird flu, is impacting wild birds and several seals near Fort Flagler State Park. This outbreak started in early July 2023.
WDFW staff are monitoring and responding to the situation and have removed more than 1,700 dead Caspian terns and gulls from Rat Island and adjacent shores near Fort Flagler State Park. Preliminary results indicate three harbor seals from the same area were also infected with avian influenza. Confirmation testing is pending.
Additionally, recent detections of infected Caspian terns have been documented near the Port of Everett, Port of Tacoma, and along the lower Columbia River.
People and their pets should avoid all contact with sick or dead wildlife. While avian influenza infections among people are rare, human infections can happen when the virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose, or mouth, or is inhaled. People may be at greater risk of bird flu virus infection during close or lengthy unprotected contact (not wearing respiratory protection or eye protection) with infected animals or surfaces contaminated with saliva, or feces of infected animals. Dogs and other animals can become sick with avian influenza, and care should be taken to avoid contact between pets and sick or dead animals. The United States Department of Agriculture monitors infections in wild mammals across the U.S.
Do not attempt to move sick wild animals to a veterinarian or rehabilitation center, or to your home, as this can spread the disease. WDFW continues to ask members of the public who find sick or dead birds to report them immediately using this online form.
As resources are available, biologists may respond to remove carcasses and, if in an area or species where avian influenza has not been confirmed, test for the virus. Due to the magnitude of this outbreak, WDFW staff will not be able to respond to all reported cases. More detailed information about avian influenza is available on this WDFW webpage. To report a dead, injured, or stranded marine mammal along the West Coast (i.e., off California, Oregon, and Washington) call the NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region Stranding Hotline: 1-866-767-6114.
Reports of suspected avian influenza in domestic poultry flocks should be sent to the Washington State Department of Agriculture. Call 1-800-606-3056 or visit their webpage for more information about how to protect poultry and other domestic birds.
WDFW Communications POC: Dr. Katherine Haman, email@example.com
Washington State Department of Health (DOH): Mark Johnson, firstname.lastname@example.org