Bird flue detected for first time in Pennsylvania, says state agency - petsitterbank

Bird flue detected for first time in Pennsylvania, says state agency

Bird flu – highly pathogenic avian influenza virus – has been detected in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Game Commission revealed today.

A wild bald eagle found dead in East Marlborough Township, Chester County has become the first detection of HPAI H5N1 in the state since the virus was first confirmed in North America in December 2021.

In addition to the bald eagle, diagnostics are pending on five wild hooded mergansers recovered from Kahle Lake in Clarion and Venango counties. Four of the waterfowl were found dead. The fifth was exhibiting unusual behavior and was subsequently euthanized. HPAI is suspected.

Pennsylvania joins 19 other states across the eastern and midwestern US where the virus has been detected in wild or domestic birds.

The commission said monitoring efforts for the disease continue throughout the state, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, US Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Futures Program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System.

Additional detections will be reported by the USDA on its website, according to the commission.

Wild waterfowl and shorebirds are considered natural reservoirs for avian influenza viruses. While infected birds may shed the virus in their feces and saliva despite appearing healthy, HPAI can lead to sickness or death in wild poultry, raptors, avian scavengers and other species, including waterfowl.

Signs of infection in wild birds are often non-specific but may include neurologic dysfunction such as circling and difficulty flying.

HPAI is particularly contagious and lethal to domestic poultry.

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The commission noted that the current HPAI outbreak does not appear to have significantly impacted wild bird populations, but it has the potential to significantly affect the commercial poultry industry and international trade.

Because avian influenza viruses are naturally occurring and ever-present in wild birds, preventing or controlling HPAI in wild populations is not feasible.

But safeguards can be taken to protect domestic birds or wild birds held in captivity. Owners should always prevent contact between their birds and wild birds to prevent the spread of disease. Any Pennsylvanians who care for captive wild birds, domestic backyard poultry, or are involved in commercial poultry operations should review their biosecurity plans to protect their flocks.

The USDA offers free biosecurity information on its website.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared that the current HPAI outbreak is primarily an animal health issue that poses low risk to the health of the public.

No human cases related to this avian influenza virus have been detected or reported in the United States.

The agency recommends commonsense practices to reduce the risk: Always observe wildlife from a safe distance. Avoid contacting surfaces that may be contaminated with feces from wild or domestic birds. Do not handle wildlife unless you are hunting, trapping, or otherwise authorized to do so. Those authorized to handle wildlife should always wear appropriate personal protective equipment and practice good hygiene such as hand washing.

Any sick or dead wild birds, particularly the above-mentioned species, should be reported to the Game Commission at 610-926-3136 or pgc-wildlifehealth@pa.gov.

Any sick or dead domestic birds should be reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture at 717-772-2852.

If you have had contact with sick or dead domestic or wild birds and are not feeling well, contact your primary care physician or the Pennsylvania Department of Health at 877-724-3258.

Contact Marcus Schneck at mschneck@pennlive.com.

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