People should avoid contact with wild animals, given a deadly outbreak of avian influenza, known as bird flu, first noted in early July among birds and seals near Fort Flagler State Park in Jefferson County, health officials advised Friday evening.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife staff have removed over 1,700 dead Caspian terns and gulls on Rat Island, a wildlife preserve, and adjacent shores, according to the Washington State Department of Health. Officials have closed Rat Island due to the outbreak.
While preliminary tests indicate three harbor seals were also infected, final results are pending. Officials found Caspian terns infected with the bird flu along the lower Columbia River, the Port of Everett and Port of Tacoma, the health agency said.
It’s especially important for people and their pets to avoid sick, dead or young wild animals, the health agency said.
Though it’s rare for people to become infected with bird flu it can happen when the virus gets into the eyes, nose or mouth, or is inhaled. Dogs and other animals can become sick and owners should prevent any contact between their pet and sick or dead animals.
People are more likely to become infected during close or lengthy contact with infected animals, or contaminated surfaces, the health agency warns.