WDFW has confirmed at least 18 cases in bald eagles, meaning there are likely many more. HPAI has been affecting birds of various species for months.
SEATTLE — Washington state officials and conservationists are warning of cases of bird flu in Lincoln Park in west Seattle and across the state, urging people to watch for and report symptoms in hopes of stopping the spread.
“It went quiet in the summer and then during the migration – September, October – we saw a resurgence,” said Kersti Muul, specialist in urban conservation.
Muul volunteers to help sick and wounded birds and has been called out to several suspected bird flu cases in recent weeks, including a bald eagle in Lincoln Park.
Avian influenza, also known as avian influenza, includes infections from multiple virus strains. They are divided into low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI), which causes either no or only mild signs of illness, and high pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), which is more likely to sicken and kill birds.
In May 2022, the Washington Department of Agriculture confirmed the presence of avian influenza in several flocks of backyard birds. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has since confirmed the disease in wild birds. A dashboard of the cases can be found here.
WDFW has confirmed at least 18 cases of HPAI in bald eagles, but there are likely more reports. Once the department knows that a bird in an area has been confirmed to have avian influenza, they mark that area as an infected area and do not test other birds in the same area. Additionally, birds in untested areas can die from the disease before they are found and tested.
But bald eagles are just one of several bird species that have been shown to have HPAI. Whatcom County recently witnessed a goose kill.
“This die-off affected 400 birds, which sounds like a large number, but the impact on the overall population isn’t huge at this point, but these reports help us understand how it’s spreading, how it’s affecting populations, all kinds of data like this,” said WDFW spokeswoman Staci Lehman.
WDFW said the disease is natural but does not occur every year; the last recorded outbreak ran from 2014 to 2015. People don’t need to panic but should take it seriously, according to the WDFW. Departments believe the number of cases could decrease as the water supply builds up and the birds have more room to roam.
Symptoms of HPAI include an inability to move normally, diarrhea, nasal discharge, lack of hesitation when approaching people, and other unusual behavior. If you suspect a bird may have HPAI, report it to WDFW here.
WDFW also asks Hunters to clean their materials when going from place to place and to clean their boots when going home.
Muul said people can also contact her for help with injured birds here: [email protected], along with Animal Control.
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