PASCO, Wash. — Officials with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) have discovered avian influenza — also known as bird flu — in raccoons at a Pasco state park.
There were four baby raccoons, or kits, in total, officials said. Two were already deceased and the other two had to euthanized after showing “obvious signs” of being sick.
This is the first time that officials have confirmed bird flu in a mammal in Washington and also the first time they have confirmed cases in a raccoon in North America.
READ: Washington officials ‘concerned’ about a possible spread of bird flu in the state
In May, goslings in Columbia Park tested positive for the disease.
Backyard flocks in both Pacific and Spokane County and an eagle in Stevens County were also found infected.
READ: Don’t touch the birds: 2 goslings with possible bird flu in Columbia Park
Staci Lehman, the communications manager with the WDFW, said while there “is a cause for concern” they don’t want people to panic.
“What a lot of people don’t understand is that there’s always wildlife diseases out there. So if you use some common sense and practical measures, chances are really good it’s not going to be an issue,” Lehman said. “Right now, we’re not overly concerned about it going crazy and really impacting wildlife species at this point.”
Despite this happening for the first time, Lehman said the WDFW “always knew” that the virus transferring to other mammals could be a possibility.
“We don’t want people to panic about this. We feel that it is going to run its course and the numbers will recover and everything and we’ll bounce back where we were,” Lehman said.
She does recommend however, that pet owners remain alert when out in public spaces where there could be infected population.
“If you’re at a park, where there’s maybe a duck pond or anything like that, don’t let your dog swim in that water or chase the geese or the ducks,” Lehman said. “If there are dead birds or any other animal, don’t let your pets interact with them.”
In the case there is a dead animal, officials said the best course of action is to call for help.
“A lot of people really want to help… and their idea is picking it up and either taking it home and nursing it back to health or taking it to a veterinarian or rehabber. Well, that just spreads the virus. So we’re continuing to ask people, please don’t touch sick or dead wildlife. The best thing you can do is report it to us,” Lehman said. “If you do need to pick it up for any reason, please wear disposable gloves, or pick it up with a plastic bag, tie it really tight, and put it way down in the trash where nothing can get to it.”
To report a bird flu case to the WDFW, click here.
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