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Preliminary results show first bird flu cases in Tri-Cities

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is investigating after preliminary results show two positive cases for avian influenza, also known as bird flu, in the Tri-Cities.

Staci Lehman with WDFW said the two goslings that came back positive for avian influenza were picked up at the Columbia Park Pond in Kennewick.

"There's a lot of unknowns," Lehman said. "This strain that's going around now is a little bit different than what we've experienced in the past. It's sickening more birds, but not as many seem to be dying from it."

Lehman said they're still waiting on the federal laboratory to confirm their results.

The Washington State Avian Influenza Outbreak Map shows nine cases in Washington State. This would be the first for Tri-Cities and entire southeast region.

Kim Roehl said she enjoys spending time at the local ponds feeding wild birds, but now WDFW experts say it may not be such a good idea, at least for now.

"It makes me very sad. Animals, birds, they all serve their purpose and once they're gone, they're gone and what are we going to do," Roehl said.

The extremely contagious virus is usually fatal for birds and unfortunately Lehman said there's no treatment.

"We understand it's really hard to watch a sick animal and not do something to help, but we're asking people to let nature do its course and leave it there. Then report it to us," Lehman said.

Trying to transport a sick bird risks infecting other birds in an area where the virus doesn't already exist.

As for the risk of it spreading to humans or other animals, Lehman said it's very rare.

"So we're not as concerned about that, but there are other wildlife diseases that can pass to people and we don't know for sure these have avian influenza so we always tell people don't touch anything," Lehman said.

For community members heading out to the pond or spending time on the water, Lehman said to maintain distance and report any sick birds to WDFW.

Luckily, Lehman said the warm weather in the future could be a good thing.

"We have been told that it kind of slacks off with warmer weather, so it's almost June and we're hoping some warmer weather comes and that helps the situation," Lehman said.

Lehman said they are still undergoing testing and will continue to monitor the situation.

To report sick or dead wild birds, use the WDFW online reporting tool here.

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To report sick or dead domestic birds, call the WSDA hotline at 1-800-606-3056.

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