Bird flu confirmed in western U.P.

Cases found in Ontonagon, Gogebic counties

A flock of turkeys is shown. Both wild and domestic birds are subject to the avian influenza. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Allied Poultry Industries Inc.)

ONTONAGON — The first two local cases of avian flu were confirmed Friday, the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department announced.

The highly pathogenic avian influenza was detected in an eagle in Gogebic County and a white pelican in Ontonagon County. No humans were found to be ill, the WUPHD said.

“The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department is sharing this information to alert people who own or work with birds, including poultry, or hunt wild birds to the possibility of infection and the need to take recommended precautions,” the WUPHD said in a release. “HPAI in birds is not a food safety concern if poultry and eggs are handled and cooked properly.”

The virus can infect both wild and domestic birds, as well as mammals.

As of Monday, 117 animals had tested positive in Michigan.

Birds account for nearly all of them, including 40 bald eagles. HPAI spreads easily among birds; in rare cases, it can also spread to humans, the WUPHD said. Non-bird cases in Michigan have included eight red foxes and a coyote.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the public health risk remains low.

Counting Friday’s positives, there have been 11 cases across nine U.P. counties, all in birds.

The HPAI outbreak has spread across the country. But while there have continued to be cases found in wild birds across Michigan, the state has gone more than 30 days without a diagnosis in domestic birds.

In response to that milestone, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Monday lifted a stop on poultry and wildlife exhibitions.

“Even though the state has been able to reach this incredibly important benchmark, this does not mean the virus has left Michigan,” state veterinarian Nora Wineland said in a news release. “HPAI continues to be detected in wild birds throughout the state, which is not unexpected as the virus is known to be carried by wild birds. Since the virus is still present in the environment, it is still crucial for owners and caretakers of domestic birds to take every step possible to protect their flocks.”

MDARD recommended several precautionary steps essential to safeguarding human and animal health:

≤ Preventing contact between domestic and wild birds by bringing them indoors or ensuring their outdoor area is fully enclosed.

≤ Washing hands before and after handling birds as well as when moving between different coops.

≤ Disinfecting boots and other gear when moving between coops.

≤ Not sharing equipment or other supplies between coops or other farms.

Cleaning and disinfecting equipment and other supplies between uses. If it cannot be disinfected, discard it.

≤ Using well or municipal water as drinking water for birds.

≤ Keeping poultry feed secure to ensure there is no contact between the feed/feed ingredients and wild birds or rodents.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has also issued a recommendation for the temporary removal of bird feeders this year to help curtail the spread of HPAI in both wild and domestic birds. If people continue to use bird feeders, they should:

≤ Thoroughly clean bird feeders with a diluted bleach solution (and rinse well) once per week. Regularly cleaning helps protect birds against other infections, including salmonella.

≤ Clean up birdseed that has fallen below the feeders to discourage large numbers of birds and other wildlife from congregating in a concentrated area.

≤ Avoid feeding wild birds, especially waterfowl, near domestic flocks.

If exposed to an infected bird, individuals should watch for symptoms of influenza for 10 days after their last contact with the bird. Similar to seasonal influenza illness in humans, avian influenza viruses can be treated using influenza antiviral drugs. These medications work better the sooner they are given. People who think they may be ill should contact WUPHD at 906-482-7382.

Domestic bird owners and caretakers should watch for unusual deaths, a drop in egg production, a significant decrease in water consumption, or an increase in sick birds. If avian influenza is suspected in domestic birds, contact MDARD immediately at 800-292-3939 (daytime) or 517-373-0440 (after hours).

If anyone notices what appears to be unusual or unexplained deaths among wild bird populations, report these cases to the DNR by either using the DNR’s Eyes in the Field app or choose the “Diseased Wildlife” option among the selections for Observation Forms, or call the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory at 517-336-5030.

To follow the current status of HPAI in Michigan, go to michigan/gov/birdflu and the Department of Natural Resources’ page at michigan.gov/dnr/managing-resources/wildlife/wildlife-disease/avian-influenza-updates.


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