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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Friday, September 22, 2023

New strain of highly contagious avian flu detected in wild birds

Last detected March 14 on a poultry farm in Jefferson County, this strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPVI) has now been found in wild birds.

A highly pathogenic strain of avian flu originally found amongst domestic birds has been confirmed in Wisconsin for the first time since 2015. 

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has reported that samples were collected from a Cooper’s hawk, bald eagle, lesser scaup, red-tailed hawk, Canada goose and trumpeter swan from several Wisconsin counties. 

The DNR is currently monitoring waterfowl, raptors and avian scavengers for this strain of HPVI due to the likelihood of these species carrying or being affected by this virus. Transmission is spread through an infected bird's saliva, mucus and feces.

Wisconsin’s first positive case of bird flu was found on a commercial egg laying farm in Jefferson County. Nearby farms have been monitored by officials, but there has been no indication of the virus spreading.

"Once it's introduced to domestic birds, you normally see a high number of birds that die, and it transmits very easily between them,” Lindsey Long, a wildlife veterinarian from the DNR, said.

The 2015 bird flu outbreak resulted in the death of 1.9 million birds across the state and affected nine commercial flocks in one month.

"Our main objective is to prevent the spread of this virus either to other wild birds or to other domestic birds, either backyard flocks or other commercial flocks," Dr. Darlene Konkle, Wisconsin state veterinarian, said. "So, that's why we need to act quickly."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this strain of avian flu does not pose any immediate risk to the public because the virus dies when the infected bird or egg is properly handled and cooked. However, if enough of the virus gets into a human’s eyes, nose, or mouth or is inhaled, human infections can occur. 

The DNR has set out guidelines for dealing with infected birds to prevent spread to other birds and potentially humans. This can be prevented by minimizing contact with sick or dead birds. If necessary to touch a dead bird, use gloves or a plastic bag to dispose of it, as well as washing your hands with soap and water after throwing away your gloves. If possible, wear respiratory protection and eye protection. 

Signs of illness among birds can be reported to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) at 608-224-4872.

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