JUST ASK SHANE: Do We Need to Protect our Pets from Avian Flu? - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

JUST ASK SHANE: Do We Need to Protect our Pets from Avian Flu?

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RICHLAND, WA - We've been talking a lot about avian flu in the Tri-Cities this month, and that's prompted a lot of questions from our viewers.  William sent me an email asking, "We live next to neighbors who have chickens.  Should we be concerned about our pets?  Is the avian flu transferable to other animals?"

I talked with some of the veterinarians from the U.S. Department of Agriculture who are here in town testing birds at several homes and farms in the area.  They tell me that humans and other mammals, like dogs and cats, are safe.  They cannot become infected with these strains of the avian flu virus.  They also cannot carry the virus to others, even if they come in contact with an infected bird.

"The good news for our furry pets and all other mammals is that we are not infected by these H5N2 or H5N8 viruses.  So we would not become sick and we would not become silent carriers and pass it back and forth," said Alan Huddleston, a veterinary medical officer with the USDA.

Huddleston also says the veterinarians are wearing their protective clothing out of an abundance of caution, and to make sure that each farm or flock they test starts with a clean slate with no outside contamination.

If you're a local bird owner, you can find more information about protecting your birds at the Washington State Department of Agriculture website, www.agr.wa.gov.  If you're concerned that some of your birds may be infected with the avian flu, you can call 1-800-606-3056.

Remember, if you've got a question about something going on in our community... send it my way.  You can reach me in the newsroom at (509) 737-6738, or send me an email at JustAskShane@nbcrightnow.com.