State responding to avian flu as first case identified in wild mammals

Concern continues to grow as the avian influenza continues to spread across the country.
Published: May. 12, 2022 at 10:13 PM EDT
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Mich. (WNEM) - Concern continues to grow as the avian influenza continues to spread across the country.

Jennifer Holton, the communications director at the State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said the first commercial case of high path avian influenza, or bird flu, has been reported.

“It’s only been, up until recently, in small backyard flock owners, small backyard poultry operations,” Holton said.

The case was found in commercial turkeys in Muskegon County.

“No impacted poultry in this case, turkeys, will enter the food supply or has entered the food supply. So, there’s not a food safety concern,” Holton said.

The concern is the spread of the virus. The state has confirmed the virus has spread to wild mammals.

“Three red fox kits died from highly pathogenic avian influenza. It’s possible that they were exposed by consuming infected birds such as waterfowl,” said Eric Hilliard, from the DNR Wildlife Division.

Fox kits from three separate dens, one in Lapeer County.

Hilliard said the transmissions to mammals are typically isolated cases, but the virus can be a zoonotic disease.

“Which means it has the potential to be transmitted from domestic or wild animals to humans,” Hilliard said.

Small backyard flock owners are one of the lines of defense in helping prevent its spread.

“Disinfecting your gear, disinfecting your boots, your clothes, anything where the virus might be able to transmit on, keeping your domestic birds, your backyard birds, don’t let them interact with wild birds. That is really the primary way that this virus spreads,” Holton said.

The Centers for Disease Control said the public health risk associated with bird flu is low, but the agency advises against handling any sick or dead wild birds.

If you absolutely must move a dead bird, it recommends using a plastic bag or shovel and then thoroughly washing your hands afterward.