Bird flu found in a wild bird in Pennsylvania

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Highly pathogenic avian influenza virus has been detected in a wild bald eagle found dead in East Marlborough Township, Chester County. This marks the first detection of the HPAI H5N1, or bird flu, in birds within Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Game Commission announced the finding March 25.

In addition to the bald eagle, diagnostics are pending regarding five wild hooded mergansers, a type of duck, recovered from Kahle Lake on the border of Clarion and Venango counties. Four were found dead and the fifth was exhibiting neurologic signs and was subsequently euthanized. HPAI is suspected.

As of March, the HPAI outbreak has impacted domestic or wild birds in more than 20 states across the eastern and midwestern U.S., resulting in the culling of millions of domestic poultry.

On March 30, the Ohio Department of Agriculture announced bird flu had been found in a backyard flock in Franklin County in central Ohio. It had earlier been detected in wild birds in the northern part of Ohio.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission continues to work with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Wildlife Futures Program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and the Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System to monitor for HPAI in wild and domestic bird populations throughout the Commonwealth. 

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 (turkey, grouse), raptors (hawks, eagles), avian scavengers (crows, gulls, ravens) and other species (ducks, geese). 

Clinical 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. 

Because avian influenza viruses are naturally occurring and ever-present in wild birds, preventing or controlling HPAI in wild populations is not feasible. However, safeguards can be taken to protect domestic birds or wild birds held in captivity. 

While HPAI can potentially infect humans, the U.S. 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 general public. No human cases related to this avian influenza virus have been detected or reported in the U.S.

Contacts

Report sick or dead wild birds 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.

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