Following the discovery of nearly 400 dead or sick geese at Wiser Lake, three miles southwest of Lynden off Highway 539, the Whatcom County Health Department is warning residents about a potential bird flu outbreak.
A joint press release by the Health Department and the State Department of Fish & Wildlife reported that several of the affected geese tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).
The outbreak matches periodic HPAI infections in domestic flocks from the past year.
“The last outbreak we had prior to this one starting in 2021 was in 2014,” said Staci Lehman, communications manager for the Department of Fish & Wildlife. “When they do occur, it is not unusual for it to happen in fall or winter, coming out of a summer when water levels in ponds and lakes are low. Low water levels means birds have less water to spread out on and have to flock together to feed.”
The health department emphasized the best preventative measure is to avoid contact between wild and domestic flocks.
Potential signs of infection include decreased egg production, low energy and diarrhea.
Lehman further emphasized that the risk to humans is “very small,” but people who suspect they’ve had contact with infected birds should nonetheless contact them as a precaution.
“When it does happen, it is generally to people who work with poultry and touch birds regularly throughout the day,” she said. “It isn’t usually an issue for waterfowl and other bird hunters, but we always recommend that anyone handling wildlife of any kind wear disposable gloves as a precaution.”
Whatcom County Health Department Communication Specialist Marie Duckworth said, “As a precautionary measure, people who have had known contact with infected birds should contact the Whatcom County Health Department for symptom monitoring and follow up.”
The department has advised residents not to touch or handle any sick birds, to report suspected sick wild birds to the Department of Fish & Wildlife via an online form and to report affected domestic birds to a hotline at 1-800-606-3056.
Troy Schulz (he/him) is a city news reporter at The Front. He studies news/editorial journalism. He has previously written for Zenger News and WhatCulture.
He can be reached at email@example.com.