January 8, 2015 / 7:07 PM / 5 years ago

Bird flu prompts emergency quarantine of poultry in Washington state

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Washington state agriculture officials said on Thursday they have imposed an emergency eight-month quarantine on poultry and eggs in two counties in the southeastern part of the state to contain an outbreak of highly contagious bird flu.

The quarantine restricts the movement of eggs, poultry or poultry products out of the quarantine zone, which makes up roughly 20 miles (32 km) around Benton and Franklin counties, the Washington State Department of Agriculture said.

A highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza, the H5N2 virus, was confirmed this month in two flocks of mixed poultry and other birds in the region, agriculture officials said.

The virus has not been found in commercial poultry and there was no immediate public health concern, the state agency said in a statement.

Most bird flu viruses do not infect humans. But another strain, H5N1, which severely affected poultry in Asia, became a worldwide concern because in 2003 it was more easily spread among humans.

The quarantine in the two Washington state counties, both agricultural centers in the state, will be in effect for at least 240 days, the statement said.

Agriculture officials warned the biggest risk to poultry in the area comes from the migratory wild waterfowl populations, where two avian flu strains have been identified.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to increase the amount of testing of poultry and other domestic birds within a 16-mile area around where avian flu was detected, agriculture officials said.

Poultry and eggs that are sold in grocery stores or to restaurants undergo robust testing and monitoring for avian flu, the Washington State Department of Agriculture said.

Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Bill Trott

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