Wild ducks collected in Morrow County have tested positive for highly pathogenic bird flu, the first confirmed cases in Eastern Oregon of the virulent Eurasian virus spreading into the U.S. West.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed Feb. 2 that three wood ducks and three northern shovelers shot by hunters at the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge in early January were infected.

The USDA also confirmed that four other ducks shot in Oregon in early January — three in Columbia County and one in Lane County — had bird flu.

All 10 ducks had an H5N2 virus, a mix of Eurasian and North American strains. Migratory ducks are immune from the highly contagious virus’ ill effects, but pass the disease along to poultry, and raptors, which die.

The findings confirmed that highly pathogenic bird flu is circulating among waterfowl in different regions of Oregon. Until this week, the USDA had confirmed only two avian flu cases in mallard ducks shot in Lane and Columbia counties.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife collected samples from fewer than 100 hunter-harvested ducks on Jan. 30 in Morrow County, ODFW’s migratory game bird coordinator, Brandon Reishus, said. Finding six with the disease on one day “was a little bit surprising,” he said.

“We’re keeping track of (the virus in wild birds) as a service to the poultry industry, so they can know where it’s at, so they can take appropriate actions to protect their flocks,” he said.

The USDA has now confirmed 25 cases of disease-causing bird flu in wild birds since mid-December. Besides Oregon, highly pathogenic avian flu has been found in wild birds in Washington, Idaho, California, Nevada and Utah.

The ducks in Columbia County, two mallards and a northern pintail, were harvested Jan. 5 at the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area near Portland.

The mallard in Lane County was harvested Jan. 7 at Fern Ridge.

Oregon’s duck season ended Jan. 25. Reishus said he expects the USDA to report more cases as the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, tests samples collected later in the hunting season.

Health officials say the virus does not pose a risk to humans. Captive falcons have died after eating infected duck meat.

The virus also has been found in non-commerical flocks in Washington, Oregon and Idaho; a game bird farm in Washington and a Foster Farms turkey operation in California.

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