WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture recently confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic H5 avian influenza in wild birds in Whatcom County, Wash.

“Neither virus has been found in commercial poultry anywhere in the United States and no human cases with these viruses have been detected in the United States, Canada or internationally,” USDA said in a release. “There is no immediate public health concern with either of these avian influenza viruses.”

Two separate strains were identified: H5N2 in northern pintail ducks, and H5N8 in captive Gyrfalcons that were fed hunter-killed wild birds. USDA said the agency was able to identify the presence of the highly pathogenic virus due to increased surveillance in light of H5N8 outbreaks at commercial poultry farms in British Columbia, Canada.

“Following existing avian influenza response plans, USDA is working with the US Department of the Interior and the US Department of Health and Human Services as well as state partners on additional surveillance and testing of both commercial and wild birds in the nearby area,” USDA said.

USDA noted that Wild birds can be carriers of highly pathogenic avian flu viruses without the birds appearing sick. The agency is advising individuals to avoid contact with sick or dead poultry or wildlife. If contact occurs, individuals should wash their hands with soap and water and change clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds.

“HPAI would have significant economic impacts if detected in US domestic poultry. Commercial poultry producers follow strict biosecurity practices and raise their birds in very controlled environments,” USDA said. “Federal officials emphasize that all bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts, should continue practicing good biosecurity.”