The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on Wednesday confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic H5 avian influenza in wild birds in Whatcom County, Wash.
Neither virus has been found in commercial poultry anywhere in the United States and no human cases with these viruses has been detected in the United States, Canada or internationally. There is no immediate public health concern with either of these avian influenza viruses, USDA said.
Two separate virus strains were identified: HPAI H5N2 in northern pintail ducks and HPAI H5N8 in captive Gyrfalcons that were fed hunter-killed wild birds.
Both H5N2 and H5N8 viruses have been found in other parts of the world and have not caused any human infection to date.
Such outbreaks can have trade implications as countries have banned imports of poultry products from infected regions. The Toronto Globe and Mail earlier this month said the United States and Taiwan were among a few countries that imposed trade restrictions on poultry from British Columbia.
A Rabobank Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory group report released this week said global issues such as avian flu and trade restrictions remain on the horizon for the poultry industry in 2015 and will have a big impact on global poultry trade. Regions affected by avian flu outbreaks, like the EU and Canada, will suffer from lost export markets and this will affect local prices.
"Several avian flu strains are already endemic in several parts of Asia and Mexico, and the disease is increasingly spreading globally via wild birds," explained Rabobank analyst Nan-Dirk Mulder.
Washington state is not a major poultry producer and in 2012 did not export any poultry meat, according to state agriculture department data. In 2012, the value of broiler production ranked 20th and eggs ranked 15th among the state’s agriculture products.
While neither virus has been found in U.S. commercial poultry, USDA officials emphasized that poultry, poultry products and wild birds are safe to eat even if they carry the disease if properly handled and cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
The finding in Whatcom County was identified due to increased surveillance for avian influenza following HPAI H5N2 avian influenza outbreaks in poultry in British Columbia, Canada.
Following existing avian influenza response plans, USDA is working with the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as State partners on additional surveillance and testing of both commercial and wild birds in the nearby area.