Bird flu infects two more flocks in Deschutes County

The outbreaks coincide with another deadly virus that has killed a few pet rabbits

By: - August 2, 2022 3:33 pm

Bird flu has infected backyard flocks in Oregon for months. (Oregon Department of Agriculture/Flickr)

State agricultural officials have identified two more backyard bird flocks that are infected with bird flu.

The Agricultural Department said Tuesday that they’re both in Deschutes County, marking the fifth and sixth outbreaks there. They coincide with the death of nine pet rabbits killed by a virus that only affects rabbits and hares but is spread by other creatures.

State agricultural officials said Oregon has had 11 instances of bird flu in noncommercial backyard flocks this year: six in Deschutes County, two in Linn County and one each in Polk, Lane and Coos County. The latter was announced last week.

In all cases, agriculture officials have culled the flocks to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. They have euthanized 1,330 birds, including about 150 ducks, chickens and pea fowl in the latest two cases. 

Since the first outbreaks in Deschutes County, it has been under a quarantine. 

Report outbreaks

The agriculture department urged owners to report any deaths or illness among domestic birds by calling 503-986-4711 or 800-347-7028.  

Report the death of wild birds to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife by calling 866-968-2600 or email [email protected].

“The quarantine applies to all poultry and poultry products in the quarantine zone,” said Liz Beele, a department spokeswoman. “No poultry or poultry products may be removed from a farm within the quarantine area unless disposed of in an approved manner (landfill, or other DEQ permitted disposal site).”

The latest outbreaks will not expand the quarantine because the owners did not sell eggs or other poultry products. If they had, federal guidelines would have required an expansion, state officials said. 

Outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza or HPAI do not present a public health threat, state officials said. Bird flu does not affect poultry meat or egg products, which are safe to eat provided they’re prepared safely and cooked enough.

The virus is usually spread by migrating birds but some populations of wild waterfowl reside in Oregon over the summer and year-round.

“Those populations appear to be carrying HPAI, and when they are given opportunities to directly interact with domestic poultry, we are seeing transmission of HPAI to those domestic birds,” Beele said. “HPAI is extremely deadly to most species of domestic poultry, but ducks (both wild and domestic) are unique in that they can be infected with HPAI, but not show any symptoms or die from it.”

Domestic birds that become infected can also spread the virus for a short time.

Symptoms include sudden death, listlessness, a lack of appetite and coordination, purple discoloration or swelling of body parts, diarrhea, coughing and sneezing. It can reduce egg production and cause abnormal eggs.

State veterinarian Ryan Scholz expects more outbreaks as fall approaches and birds start their winter migrations, a release said.

State officials advise owners of backyard flocks to be vigilant about biosecurity and surveillance. “Preventing any contact between wild birds and domestic flocks is the best way to protect domestic birds from HPAI,” the department said. 

For tips on protecting backyard flocks, visit the state’s avian influenza webpage or Español at avian influenza-Spanish.

The Department of Agriculture will continue to update the public. Starting Aug. 8, it will post all confirmed cases of bird flu in Oregon online. The public can sign up to receive updates via email. 

Viral disease affects rabbits in Oregon

Two pet rabbits in one household in Lane County have died after contracting a deadly virus that only affects rabbits and hares, state officials said.

State officials said one rabbit “became lethargic, refused to eat, then experienced convulsions shortly before dying last Friday, state officials said. “Later that day, a second rabbit in the house also died,” a release said.

The veterinary lab at Oregon State University confirmed the rabbits died of rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus type 2, or RHDV2, a highly contagious virus that can spread quickly among rabbit and hare populations. It poses no threat to humans.

A week earlier, seven pet rabbits in Multnomah County became infected with the virus and diet.

The virus resists extreme temperatures and can exist in the environment for months. It is spread through direct contact with an infected rabbit or contaminated material. Birds, rodents, flies, predators and scavengers can spread the virus via their feet, fur, feathers or feces without becoming infected themselves. 

In the Lane County case, wild rabbits live near the home, and the owner’s cat goes outside and also spent time with the pet rabbits.

The state asked the public to report rabbit deaths so they can track the virus’ spread.

Report domestic cases by calling 800-347-7028 or visiting https://oda.direct/RHD.

To report the death of wild rabbits, contact the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife by calling 866-968-2600 or emailing [email protected]

 

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Lynne Terry
Lynne Terry

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years. She has won state, regional and national awards, including a National Headliner Award for a long-term care facility story and a top award from the National Association of Health Care Journalists for an investigation into government failures to protect the public from repeated salmonella outbreaks. She loves to cook and entertain, speaks French and is learning Portuguese.

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