Avian flu outbreak in sea birds and seals, detected in terns near Port of Tacoma

Avoid sick or dead wild birds and other wild animals, authorities warn


An outbreak of avian influenza has broken out of Fort Flagler State Park, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced.

Authorities are warning community members to “to avoid contact with wild birds and other wild animals, especially sick or dead wild animals or their young.”

Commonly known as bird flu, health and wildlife officials said that the outbreak started in July this year and has affected many wild birds and a few suspected cases of infected seals in the area,  within easy reach of Thurston County.

Affected animals that have been tested include more than 1,700 dead Caspian terns and gulls from shores near Fort Flagler State Park and Rat Island, as well as three harbor seals for which preliminary tests are still pending.

There have been additional detections of infected Caspian terns that were documented near the Port of Everett, Port of Tacoma, and the lower Columbia River.

According to the DOH’s press release, while bird flu infecting people happens rarely, human infections can happen when the virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose, or mouth, or is inhaled.

“People may be at greater risk of bird flu virus infection during close or lengthy unprotected contact (not wearing respiratory protection or eye protection) with infected animals or surfaces contaminated with saliva, or feces of infected animals,” warned DOH.

Pets such as dogs, should also be kept from contact with dead and infected animals, DOH added.

Community members are instructed not to transport sick wild animals, as this can spread the disease, and report them to the WDFW immediately. This includes not bringing them to a rehabilitation center, a veterinarian, or to any home, “as this can spread the disease.”

“Reports of suspected avian influenza in domestic poultry flocks should be sent to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, the press release instructed. “Call 1-800-606-3056 or visit their webpage for more information about how to protect poultry and other domestic birds.”


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