Tri-Citians can share and transport eggs, poultry and waterfowl from backyard businesses after the end of a three-week quarantine.
The state Department of Agriculture on Tuesday lifted an avian flu-related quarantine that covered much of the Tri-City area.
The Benton County outbreak was the first time avian flu has been found in a backyard flock in Washington. Since then, birds from a Port Angeles flock also caught the disease.
Backyard flocks in Oregon and Idaho and wild birds in Utah and California also have been diagnosed with avian influenza.
While the disease has not been found in any Washington commercial operations, officials detected it in a commercial flock in California this weekend.
Foster Farms found avian influenza in turkeys at in a rural turkey ranch in Stanislaus County as part of its regular testing of flocks.
Officials are putting the ranch on quarantine and killing its birds to prevent the disease from spreading. Birds that get it tend to die within three days.
Humans can't catch the disease, but other nations are expanding their bans on poultry, eggs and other poultry products to include California.
China and some other nations already had banned all U.S. poultry and eggs. But most of the 30 nations that have placed trade restrictions have banned poultry and poultry products from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California.
The Benton County quarantine was in place to give state and federal veterinarians and technicians a chance to make sure that a highly contagious illness had not spread beyond the two initial flocks.
The Benton City and Richland flocks had contact with each other and with wild waterfowl.
The veterinarian team finished taking samples from birds in more than 70 nearby backyard flocks and found no new cases of avian influenza.
There were a few calls about sick birds, but none had the flu, said Hector Castro, the state Department of Agriculture’s communications manager.
The quarantine could have lasted up to eight months.
“This is an unusual situation for our state,” Castro said. “We have not had to deal with highly pathogenic avian influenza in our state.”
Lifting the quarantine was welcome news for Mike Mackey, owner of Red Mountain Egg Farm of Benton City.
His business was the only one to apply and receive special permission from the state to continue delivering brown farm-fresh eggs to customers inside the quarantine area in Richland, West Richland and Kennewick.
Before the quarantine was lifted, he couldn’t deliver eggs outside of the quarantine area or to customers within about two miles of the homes of the Richland and Benton City flocks.
Now, Mackey said he will contact his customers outside of the quarantine area to see if they would like an evening delivery this week. He’ll start back on the regular, twice a month delivery next week.
He said he has plenty of eggs, as part of getting permission to move eggs during the quarantine meant letting his eggs age five days before delivery.
Normally, eggs are delivered the same day they are laid, or shortly thereafter. His refrigerated storage for eggs is pretty full.
“I’m going to be able to take care of absolutely everybody,” he said, adding that he might even have enough eggs to add on some more customers.
His hens matured and started producing more eggs during the last few weeks.
Red Mountain Egg Farm already moved some families off of their waiting list and into the rotation, Mackey said. Some had waited for a few months.
Officials advise backyard poultry and waterfowl owners in Washington, Oregon and Idaho to limit or eliminate any contact their birds have with wild waterfowl.
It’s important now more than ever for backyard flock owners to prevent their birds from coming into contact with waterfowl, Castro said.
The current outbreaks seem to be tied to contact with wild waterfowl within migratory pathways.
Quarantines are still in place on the two properties in Benton County that were home to the flocks that had avian flu, Castro said. The owners will have to go through a process if they want to bring birds back onto those properties.
The quarantine near Port Angeles remains in place because officials still are taking samples from birds in flocks near the Port Angeles backyard flock, he said.