State officials urge public not to touch sick or dead wild birds

The Washington State Department of Health and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife put out a news release Tuesday urging the public to avoid contact with wild birds, especially sick or dead birds or their young.

The warning comes amid an outbreak of avian influenza, also known as bird flu, in wild birds across the state, including Canada geese, snow geese, bald eagles and other raptors.

State officials ask anyone who encounters a dead bird to alert WDFW using the agency’s reporting tool.

According to the news release, bird flu infections in humans are rare, but they happen when the virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose, or mouth or is inhaled.

People may be at greater risk of infection during close, unprotected contact with infected birds or surfaces contaminated with the virus.

“Although the risk to people is low, bringing a sick bird into your home or a veterinary hospital could spread an infection to humans and other animals,” said Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, MD, Washington State Chief Science Officer at the Department of Health. “Don’t take a chance. The safest thing to do is to avoid all contact and report the bird to Fish and Wildlife.”

In addition to the WDFW online reporting tool, sick or dead domestic birds can be reported by calling the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Avian Health Program at 1-800-606-3056.

According to the news release, if you develop flu-like symptoms within 10 days of contact with sick or dead birds, you should contact your local health jurisdiction and alert your health care provider.