(FOX 2) – A persistent strain of bird flu continues to spread in Michigan and around the United States. On Monday, it was confirmed in a pet parrot that stayed at a Washtenaw County home and died from the virus.
The unusual infection of a domestic bird catching a virus that is commonly reported in wild birds underscores the seriousness of the spread.
The ongoing bird flu epidemic has gotten so bad that at least one university in the Midwest has asked people to put away bathhouses and feeders where birds congregate.
In an online post to the Raptor Center, the University of Minnesota Raptor Center asked people “not to encourage birds to congregate in places such as feeders and birdbaths. These are places where things like viruses could easily be exchanged between individuals.”
the Raptor Centerwhich acts as a veterinary clinic for injured owls, eagles and other wild birds, had euthanized a family of great horned owls after being infected with highly pathogenic avian flu.
The centre’s Dr Victoria Hall said the current outbreak “is very different” due to the high levels of transmission found in wildlife.
That’s also the consensus of Michigan wildlife experts, who have called the spread of HPAI “very concerning” because of both its potential impact on public health and the nation’s supply chain. .
“This outbreak is serious,” said Dr. Megan Moriarty, wildlife veterinarian with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “It seems to affect many wild birds in the United States, as well as many domestic birds.”
HPAI has made its way into Michigan in recent months and has finally been detected in the state’s Upper Peninsula, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said last week.
On Monday, MDARD announced that it also found the virus in a pet parrot at a Washtenaw County home.
Where was highly pathogenic avian influenza detected in Michigan?
Until last Friday, the virus had been found in non-commercial poultry in Menominee, Kalamazoo, Livingston and Macomb counties, as well as in wild flocks in Monroe and St. Clair counties.
On Monday, the first case of HPAI was reported in a pet parrot that died of influenza.
The infection was unusual due to avian flu-related viruses that typically spread among mostly wild birds. In cases where a domestic bird becomes ill with the virus, it is likely through contact with contaminated material such as food, cage furniture, or an owner’s clothing.
What is HPAI?
Although HPAI does not pose an immediate public health threat to humans, it can prove fatal to many wild species of avians. It can easily spread through contact with infected poultry, equipment and on the clothing of poultry keepers.
Birds also transmit it through their droppings.
It is not always clear what symptoms birds might exhibit if infected with HPAI. Some species like songbirds and seabirds have been known to carry it without showing any signs, while raptors can become seriously ill and die quickly from the virus.
When a bird is infected with the virus, it can lead to mild symptoms like ruffled feathers and reduced egg production, or something more serious that attacks the bird’s organs. It has a 90-100% mortality rate in chickens, which is why it’s such a concern if it ends up in a commercial flock.
Is HPAI dangerous for humans?
There are very rare cases of humans being infected with HPAI, with illnesses ranging from no symptoms and mild illness to severe illness resulting in death.
Symptoms reported in humans include eye redness, flu-like symptoms, and pneumonia.
No human cases of HPAI have been reported since the recent strain began spreading in the state and in the United States.
Ways to reduce the spread of HPAI
Its detection across Michigan sparked warnings from MDARD and DNR about “increasing biosecurity” measures to help protect bird flocks. So far, confirmed cases have been isolated in wild birds and officials do not believe there is a threat to the supply chain.
“As wild birds continue their spring migration and spread disease, it is critical that Michigan backyard and commercial flock owners take every precaution possible to protect their birds through biosecurity. Maintaining the health of Michigan’s domestic birds is a team effort,” said state veterinarian Dr. Nora Wineland.
“Now more than ever, it is essential that poultry owners take all possible steps to keep wild birds out of their flocks and follow strict biosecurity measures,” she added in a statement.
Some of these measures include:
- Prevent contact between domestic and wild birds by bringing them indoors
- Wash hands before and after handling birds and when moving between different barns.
- Disinfect boots and other equipment
- Use of well or municipal water as drinking water for birds
- Keep poultry feed safe and isolated from other potential contaminants