A chicken scurries along through a yard.

OLYMPIA – The state Department of Agriculture will offer a free webinar next week to help poultry owners protect their birds from avian influenza as cases continue to increase worldwide.

The World Organization for Animal Health reports ongoing outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza, or bird flu, in 26 countries across Asia, Europe and the Middle East. HPAI can spread rapidly and kill entire flocks.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service recently reported current rates of HPAI in Asia and Europe are similar to the rates in 2014-2015 when HPAI was identified in the U.S., including Washington state, and thousands of birds had to be euthanized to contain the disease. The pattern suggests the risk of HPAI in the U.S. is elevated this year.

In addition to existing resources such as USDA’s Defend the Flock program and information about avian influenza on the state Department of Agriculture’s website, the department will offer a free webinar for poultry owners at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 23. The webinar will provide information about avian influenza, how the current situation is similar to 2014-15, and what steps poultry owners can take to protect their birds.

Registration is through

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