Washington Chicken Farmers Can Prepare Against Pandemic - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Washington Chicken Farmers Can Prepare Against Pandemic

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Pasco, Wash. - The State of Washington wants your help to prevent a possible outbreak of the avian influenza virus.

The state wants to be well prepared if the flu hits here.  And if you have chickens in your backyard you might be able to help.

The avian flu is a deadly disease that's killed hundreds of millions of birds worldwide. And in some cases it's spread to humans. So far it's never come to Washington state and hopefully it never will, but if it does the state wants to be ready.

The State of Washington wants to make sure migrant birds don't mingle with farm birds. But you can't exactly tell birds where and when to fly. So instead the state wants people who keep chickens, quail, pheasants, or turkeys in their backyard to let officials come in and give the birds a quick test.

"If you can find it while it's still early you can eliminate that virus to stay in a bird population and not mutate into the high pathogenic influenza," Dr. Linda Carpenter, Washington State Department of Agriculture.    

The state will even make it worth your while. The state will pay you up to $60 every three months to swab your flocks, or $10 to test a dozen eggs.

It's looking for over one hundred farmers state wide. Kent Woodward runs a commercial egg farm in Franklin County. He believes preparing for the flu is a good idea.

"It's not something that comes from nowhere. It comes from someplace, so as long as we seclude ourselves and keep what we've got separate from everything else we shouldn't have a problem," said Kent Woodward, Oakdell Egg Farms.   

Last year the state swabbed over 4,000 birds and eggs with no signs of the strain. And hopes to keep that trend going.

If you'd like to volunteer for the backyard flock swabbing call the Washington State Avian Health Hotline at 1-800-606-3056.