New Washington poultry quarantine set up near B.C. border

Reuters — The state of Washington said Tuesday it has established a third poultry quarantine zone just outside British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, after state officials discovered a flock of about 100 birds infected with an avian influenza virus.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture adopted an emergency rule on Sunday to establish the new quarantine area, which encompasses a 10-km area at Oroville, Wash., state officials said.

Oroville, in Washington’s Okanogan County, is at the southern end of Osoyoos Lake and about 10 km south of the town of Osoyoos, B.C.

State officials are conducting additional tests to identify the specific avian flu strain that infected the flock. About half of the 100 birds have died, according to agriculture officials.

The quarantine generally restricts the movement of all eggs, poultry or poultry products from leaving that area.

The state had set up the first emergency quarantine in the area on Jan. 29, after a flock of nearly 5,000 birds tested positive for the H5N2 avian flu strain. Another quarantine zone was also set up in Clallam County, in response to a separate infected flock.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said at the time the virus did not pose a health risk to the public, and birds and other poultry products from such infected flocks would not enter the food system.

Regardless, China last month banned all imports of U.S. poultry products and eggs following the discovery of avian flu in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, USDA said. All poultry shipped to China after Jan. 8 was to be returned or destroyed, the agency said.

The virus is extremely contagious among poultry and can spread rapidly through a flock, killing birds in as little as 48 hours. The H5N2 strain has also been found in backyard chicken flocks in Idaho.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency in December oversaw quarantines and culls of birds in B.C.’s Fraser Valley, at 11 commercial poultry and egg operations plus one “non-commercial” farm, following outbreaks of H5N2. No new cases of H5N2 have been reported in the province since Dec. 19.

A different strain, H5N8, forced a temporary quarantine of a Foster Farms turkey ranch in California last month, with the birds destroyed to prevent the spread of the disease to migratory and commercial flocks.

Canada last month also set up restrictions on imports of live birds, eggs and uncooked poultry products from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California to help limit the potential spread of avian flu strains to other parts of the country.

— P.J. Huffstutter is a Reuters correspondent covering the agriculture and agrifood sectors from Chicago. Includes files from Network staff.

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