Keep Calm And—Wait, Bird Flu? EVERYONE PANIC!

Just when you thought it was safe to handle dead birds… Avian influenza returns!

H5N8 Part II: Birdie’s Revenge

Near the sleepy little town of Tumalo, Oregon, just before dusk settled at the end of a typical February day, a flock of backyard poultry was found to have been infected with avian influenza. This unstoppable killing machine is better known as the Bird Flu. And the Bird Flu is seeking nothing but revenge.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture reported last Friday that the H5N8 strain of bird flu was discovered in Deschutes County, where some 90 domesticated chickens, turkeys, and ducks were stricken with the virus. The fouled fowl had access to ponds and other bodies of water on the property that were frequented by migratory birds. Most wild birds naturally carry some form of avian influenza (such as the H5N2 strain we reported on last month), though it generally has no significant ill effects on these creatures.

Actually, Not That Big of A Deal

A quarantine zone around the affected property is being established by the Department of Agriculture. The movement of domestic birds in and out of the area will be restricted, though wild birds are free to come and go as they please, since they’re wild birds and keeping them in or out would be difficult. To prevent the stricken birds from returning to life as zombie fowl, their corpses are being beheaded and burned. (That last part is not true, but it wouldn’t be totally inappropriate, given the circumstances.)

Though the surveillance zone ends, our vigilance never shall.

Though the surveillance zone ends, our vigilance never shall.

It is also worth noting that the H5N8 strain of bird flu poses no actual risk to humans (that’d be the H5N1 version). And, contrary to many reports, avian influenza does not cause humans to turn into birds.

It can be deadly to birds, however, but that’s the bird flu for you. No commercial poultry operations in the Pacific Northwest have reported bird flu diagnoses, though, even if they had, poultry meat and eggs are unaffected and are still safe to eat, no matter how hard the bird whence it originated died from flu.

Do Your Part

If you have your own backyard bird flock, the Department of Agriculture encourages you to take steps to prevent contact between your fowl and wild birds. Sick or dead birds should be reported to the DOA at 800-347-7028.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has asked that any wild bird deaths be reported by calling 866-968-2600.

Also, don’t handle dead birds, ever. Not just because of bird flu, but also because that’s gross. Come on, man.

Photo credit: aburt / Foter / CC BY-ND