Statesman Examiner

Bobcat Tests Positive For Avian Flu In Stevens County

- By Staff Reports / For The Statesman

The first- ever case of avian influence in a bobcat was detected earlier this month on the Spokane Indian Reservatio­n. This marks the fourth mammal in Washington State to test positive for avian influenza since July 2022.

In the past nine months, WDFW has found avian flu in three raccoons, including one in Spokane County. Washington had the first reports of the disease in raccoons in North America, and the raccoons were the first detection of a highly transmitta­ble strain of avian influenza in a mammal in Washington state.

Avian influenza, also known as bird flu, is a virus that occurs naturally among waterfowl worldwide and can infect poultry and other bird and animal species. Waterfowl include ducks, geese, swans, gulls and terns, and shorebirds.

While the avian flu is rare in mammals, it has been detected in red foxes, striped skunks, and bobcats in other states, according to the WDFW.

As to whether avian flu poses a risk to domestic animals or humans, a recent WDFW press release stated it is unlikely.

At this time, WDFW veterinari­ans are not worried about the impact of avian influenza on local mammal population­s. With just four mammals that have tested positive since July, it does not appear to spread quickly from birds to these mammals.

While these reports may be concerning to some as they signal a spread of avian influenza from birds to mammals in Washington, they are not entirely shocking and not something to panic about. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other mammals may become infected as avian flu viruses continue to evolve and change.

Humans should avoid handling sick or dead birds and keep their pets from scavenging or interactin­g with dead wildlife. If you come across this, please report it to WDFW’s online reporting system. Practices that cause birds to congregate in large numbers, such as feeding waterfowl should also be avoided. It is also recommende­d to take special precaution­s to ensure that all equipment or footwear ( boots, clothes, tools, firearms) are cleaned and disinfecte­d to prevent spreading diseases from one area to another.

Unfortunat­ely, treatment is not an option for wild species. Most birds that become ill with avian influenza will likely die from the virus.

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