The bird flu is causing problems in Washington. Wildlife officials are rushing to test sick birds and clean up dead ones on an island in Puget Sound. This kind of flu usually affects chickens, but a new kind called H5N1 is harming wild birds. More than 75,000 birds around the world have died from this new kind of flu. While it’s rare, humans can also get sick from it.
Since last March, when the disease first came to Washington, more wild birds have been getting sick. But it’s hard to know how bad the problem really is.
Katie Haman, who takes care of sick animals at the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said, “We don’t know how many sick birds we haven’t found yet.”
The first sick bird in Washington was a goose in Walla Walla County on March 1, 2022. So far, 112 sick birds have been found in Washington, but there are probably more.
There’s a big problem on Rat Island in Puget Sound. Many Caspian terns and gulls have died there. The island is closed to the public because of the disease.
Since July 1, more than 1,224 dead Caspian terns and 158 dead gulls have been found. Most of them are adults and chicks.
Katie Haman said they don’t know how bad the problem on Rat Island will be in the long run. She thinks time will tell.
This is the first time the H5N1 flu is causing problems in the water in Washington. They are cleaning up the island because they’re afraid the disease could spread to other animals like seals. In Peru, this kind of flu killed many sea lions. In Maine, seals died from it.
So far, no marine mammals in Washington are confirmed to have the disease. They checked different mammals, but only raccoons and bobcats are sick.
If humans get the disease, more than half of them could die. If bird flu mixes with human flu, it could cause a big sickness like what happened in 1918.
The people in charge will keep watching for the disease and asking for money to help. There’s no medicine to help the sick birds much. They will keep learning about how the disease is spreading.
Katie Haman said, “The H5N1 sickness doesn’t seem to be going away.“