Prevent Exposure to Bird Flu (Low Risk to Public)
Posted on 12/15/2022

With avian influenza (bird flu) in the news again, many people may wonder if it is safe to consume eggs and poultry products. The answer is yes; it is safe to eat poultry and eggs only if they properly handled and thoroughly cooked. 


Benton and Franklin County residents have no public health or food safety concerns, even after the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) has reported a "presumptive positive" of the case of bird flu impacting a commercial poultry farm in our state. Benton-Franklin Health District is assisting the WSDA in monitoring and if needed treating the employees who handled the infected birds. 


Bird flu is a disease like the flu (H1N1), and it naturally occurs in wild bird populations (including gulls, terns, ducks, geese, and swans) and even other mammals. However, in domestic birds such as chickens and turkeys, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) is devastating and has kill several flocks.  


Sick or dead wild birds should not be touched or moved and can be reported using the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's online reporting tool.  


It is very rare for people to get sick and infected with the bird flu virus. The virus spreads among birds through contact with saliva, nasal secretions, feces, or surfaces contaminated with the virus (including clothing and equipment). People who are considered at risk of exposure have had close contact with avian influenza-infected birds.  




  • Make sure poultry and eggs are thoroughly cooked (internal temperature of a minimum of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, which kills bacteria and viruses). 
  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. 

  • Clean your cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item.  

  • Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, including poultry or eggs, unless the plate has been washed in hot, soapy water. 

"There have been no cases of avian influenza identified in humans in Washington state," said Hannah Schnitzler, communicable disease epidemiologist with the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). 



To avoid exposure to bird flu, bacteria or other wildlife diseases, bird hunters should follow the safety guidelines set by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife: 

  • Do not dispose of processed carcasses in a field where raptors could eat them. Bag them and place them in the garbage, bury them or incinerate them.  
  • Carefully disinfect all equipment (boots, clothes, vehicles, firearms) and work surfaces (use 10% solution of chlorine bleach to clean tools). 

  • Do not harvest or handle wild birds that are sick or found dead.  

  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke while cleaning the game.  

  • Wash hands with soap, water, or alcohol wipes immediately after handling the game or cleaning bird feeders.  

  • Avoid contamination by keeping raw meat separate from ready-to-eat foods.  

“Waterfowl hunters should take precautions to prevent exposure to and spread of avian influenza. Field dress your game using gloves, wash hands thoroughly, clean knives and equipment and be aware of where the feathers or other parts could become an exposure risk,” said Benton-Franklin Health District Public Health Nurse, Heather Hill. 

Dogs can become infected with avian influenza from eating infected birds in the wild. Therefore, a dog that directly ingests bird droppings or tissues could get a low-pathogenic form of the virus. This is because the virus is so highly infectious that it can live for weeks outside of the body at room temperature.

However, it’s important to remember that although dogs can become infected with avian influenza and some strains have been shown to cause mild illness in animals (including humans), they cannot spread the virus between themselves or pass it on to humans.



Domestic flock owners in the Tri-Cities are encouraged to self-report any illness or deaths among their birds through the WSDA online surveillance self-reporting tool 


Here are some tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture USDA to protect your flock at home: 

  • Please don't allow your flock to come in contact with wild birds. Secure feed bins and water to prevent wildlife contamination.  
  • Wash hands and scrub boots before and after entering a poultry area. Wear disposable boot covers and coveralls when possible.  

  • Keep shoes, clothes, hands, egg trays or flats, crates, vehicles, and tires disinfected between handling each flock.  

  • Isolate any birds returning from shows for 30 days to observe for signs of illness before placing them with the rest of your flock and buy birds from reputable sources.  

  • Prevent visitors from having contact with your flock, if you have visitors make sure they follow the biosecurity plan you have written.  


WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF AVIAN INFLUENZA IN BIRDS? (USDA)                                     

  • Sudden death without any prior symptoms of illness 
  • Lack of energy and appetite 

  • A drop in egg production or soft-shelled, misshapen eggs  

  • Swelling of the eyelids, comb, wattles, and shanks 

  • Purple discoloration of the wattles, comb, and legs 

  • Gasping for air (difficulty breathing) 

  • Nasal discharge, coughing, sneezing 

  • Twisting of the head and neck (torticollis)  

  • Stumbling or falling down 

  • Diarrhea 


Report sick/dead domestic birds to the Washington State Department of Agriculture's public phone line: 1-800-606-3056 or online at theWashington State Department of Fish & Wildlife. 


If you experience flu-like symptoms following contact with birds, contact your local health jurisdiction (Benton-Franklin Health District - 509.460.4200) who can provide public health guidance and initiate symptom monitoring.  


In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend getting a seasonal flu vaccine every year. This will decrease the likelihood of being infected with human seasonal flu and bird flu at the same time.