Monday, April 27, 2020

Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) detected in King County

Dr. Brian Joseph
Washington State Veterinarian

A King County horse tested positive for Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) last week after showing mild signs of the disease. Results of tests on three other horses at the 30-horse facility where it was stabled are pending.

Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) is a potentially fatal animal disease in the United States.

It not only has the potential to affect horse health but, because it's highly contagious and requires lengthy quarantines or cancellations of events like rodeos and fairs, the economic consequences can be equally devastating.

The infected horse in King County is receiving treatment and the facility is now under a minimum 14-day quarantine to be lifted only after WSDA confirms that there are no more signs of the disease.

The horse will remain in quarantine until two negative PCR tests, which look for traces of the viral genetic code, can be verified. The facility has cooperated fully with the quarantine order and is working to ensure strict biosecurity measures are in place.

The case should serve as a reminder to apply appropriate biosecurity measures, update vaccinations, and be vigilant for signs of the disease.

What to watch for

Given the infectious nature of EHV, WSDA asks horse owners to follow these recommendations.

Watch your horse for signs of possible infection including:

Fever of 101.5 F or higher.
Discharge from the eyes or nose.
Respiratory symptoms.
Swelling of the limbs.
Spontaneous abortions.
Neurological signs such as an unsteady gait, weakness, urine dripping, lack of tail tone and recumbency.

Check your horse’s temperature twice daily, ideally first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Also, check before administering medications since some can lower body temperature.

Notify your veterinarian immediately if you detect any of the symptoms above. Your veterinarian may want to take nasal swabs for virus detection or blood samples for evidence of exposure to EHV-1.

When the virus is detected, WSDA and local veterinarians work closely with affected communities to ensure the best biosecurity standards are practiced. For more tips on keeping your own horses safe through good biosecurity practices, please see our previous blog post.

The time between exposure and illness from EHV varies from two to 10 days. By self-quarantining animals with possible symptoms, practicing good biosecurity and contacting your veterinarian as soon as you suspect possible symptoms, you can help prevent the spread of this virus.

For more information, contact WSDA's Animal Health Program.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

WSDA planning meetings connected farmers and school buyers

Chris Iberle, WSDA Farm to School 

Seattle Public Schools nutrition staff meet with farmers and distributors
about supplying fresh fruits and vegetables to the district’s snack program.
Farmers and school nutrition staff have a lot in common. They have some of the busiest jobs, and do a lot of different things depending on the season. They also care about feeding kids nutritious foods, teaching students about agriculture and where food comes from, and supporting local farms in their communities.  

Back in January and February -- before the current pandemic imposed physical distancing restrictions -- WSDA Farm to School organized four meetings where farmers and school buyers could network and plan sales. These meetings in different parts of the state aimed to help farmers and nutrition staff collaborate on using more Washington-grown products in schools’ scratch-cooked meals.

Thirty-four farmers, food hubs, processors, or other local food suppliers met with 16 school districts. They built relationships, learned about school buyer needs, and relayed what products are available from Washington producers. Each school district shared information about products they’d be interested in purchasing, how much and how often, for farmers to use in market and production planning. 

All the meetings had great energy and enthusiasm as attendees worked together to support Washington agriculture and provide nutritious meals to students.

Supportive farm to school approach

This was the first time WSDA hosted farm to school meetings focused on networking and planning to increase schools’ purchases of Washington-grown foods. We worked with city, county, and nonprofit partners to co-host and provide outreach to farmers and schools interested in farm to school. 

Each meeting looked a bit different depending on the local needs and priorities.

  • Seattle Public Schools met with four farms and two food hubs about supplying the district with fresh fruits and vegetables for a snack program. The program was developed with the support of City of Seattle and FEEST. It prioritized bringing in new vendors, particularly small businesses owned by women or people of color.
  • In Walla Walla, the Sustainable Living Center’s Walla Walla Valley Farm to School Program helped farmers and school districts prepare for the meeting by assessing their needs and requirements for effective partnerships. Attendees also discussed the logistics of getting more food grown in Walla Walla Valley into school kitchens.
  • Bethel School District hosted farmers and nutrition staff from nine districts in Puyallup. Producers attended with a wide array of Washington products to offer, including tree fruit, berries, vegetables, seafood, eggs, beef, pork, chicken, yogurt, flour and grains.
  • In Grandview, four school districts met with tree fruit, vegetable, and pork farmers, and discussed topics ranging from food safety standards to planning purchases around the growing season.

School district nutrition staff from around Central Washington meet in
Grandview with farmers, distributors and processors.
From relationships and discussions coming out of the meetings, multiple school districts and producers reported new purchases and sources for Washington-grown products for their school meals.

Value of relationships

Furthermore, the momentum from the meetings has extended into the current COVID-19 response. WSDA helped organize a call on April 2 connecting an agency and non-profit team with farms, suppliers, distributors, and other industry partners. The call included many of the attendees from our February meetings.  

Our goal was to respond to immediate K-12 school and childcare food needs and fill shortages for certain items used in their new and evolving meal distribution models, such as grab-and-go, sack lunches, and weekly food boxes. 

To survey and respond to food-supply need, WSDA is working with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Child Nutrition, United Way King County, Department of Children, Youth and Families, and Childcare Aware.

For resources and tools to support ongoing farm to school efforts with your districts and farms, visit WSDA’s Farm to School Toolkit. Or contact me - Chris Iberle, WSDA Regional Markets’ Farm to School Lead, at I’d be happy to support starting, expanding, or growing farm to school in your community, and to find out about future activities.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Trapping for Asian giant hornets - 8 things to know

Karla Salp

Please note - if you are not in Washington State, please DO NOT trap for Asian giant hornets. You have virtually no chance of catching an Asian giant hornet but can kill local insects. If you live outside of Washington and believe you have seen Asian giant hornets, please report to your state's invasive species managers, not to WSDA. 

Since the first report of Asian giant hornets in Washington last December, the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s (WSDA) Pest Program has been doing extensive research and planning to find and, if possible, eradicate Asian giant hornets from Washington this summer.

The first step to eradicating this invasive pest - which threatens honeybees and all the crops they pollinate - is to locate the existing Asian giant hornet colonies. To do that, WSDA is enlisting the help of beekeepers and the public to trap and report Asian giant hornets in Washington. But helping out has risks and takes time, so read our list below before you decide to trap.

Here are the top eight things to know about trapping for Asian giant hornets:

  1. You can help trap for Asian giant hornets. WSDA is especially looking for people in Whatcom, Skagit, Island, San Juan, Jefferson, and Clallam counties to trap for Asian giant hornets.
  2. Trapping is a commitment. If you participate in trapping, it will require that you check traps and change the bait once per week for 17 weeks (if you start in July) or up to 34 weeks (if you start in April). You’ll also need to purchase the materials for the trap and bait, as well as mail any specimens you collect to WSDA.
  3. The best time to trap is from July through October. The most likely time to catch Asian giant hornets is from July through October - when colonies are established and workers are out foraging. Traps can be hung as early as April if attempting to trap queens, but since there are significantly fewer queens than workers, catching a queen isn’t very likely.
  4. You could get stung. Trapping for Asian giant hornets could increase your chances of being stung by one. While Asian giant hornets don’t typically bother people, they will sting if they feel threatened. Don’t trap for Asian giant hornets if you are allergic to bee or wasp stings. The venom of the Asian giant hornet is more toxic than that of local bees and wasps.
  5. Hornet traps from the store won’t work. Hornet traps currently on the market in the United States won’t work for Asian giant hornets because their holes are too small. WSDA has researched numerous trapping options and has provided instructions on how to make and monitor homemade traps that will be effective for Asian giant hornets.
  6. Reporting your trap location and catches is very important. Knowing where hornet traps are located and promptly reporting any Asian giant hornet catches will be critical to WSDA’s ability to find and remove Asian giant hornet nests. Failing to do so could thwart WSDA’s attempts to locate Asian giant hornets in Washington.
  7. Do not approach or attempt to remove an Asian giant hornet nest. When trapping, you could come across an Asian giant hornet nest. They typically nest in the ground. Take care when placing traps and if you locate one, do not approach it. Contact WSDA immediately at 1-800-443-6684. WSDA has obtained special equipment for the removal of Asian giant hornet nests.
  8. Beekeepers are helping WSDA evaluate experimental spring “sap traps.” Volunteers from the Mt. Baker Beekeeper Association are working with WSDA to test an experimental “sap trap” which uses tree sap as the bait to attract Asian giant hornets. This experimental trap is for use in the spring when queens emerge.

Trapping for Asian giant hornets is just the first step in locating and eradicating nests. WSDA is still finalizing plans for tracking live, trapped hornets back to their nests. To learn more about Asian giant hornets and WSDA’s program to eradicate them, visit

Update: this blog was updated on April 27, 2020 to add Jefferson County to the list of targeted counties. 

Update: this blog was updated on May 8, 2020 to add information for people outside of Washington State.