‘Highly pathogenic’ bird flu has been found in Florida’s wild birds

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed that a new strain of avian flu is affecting the Sunshine State’s wild bird population

The FWC said the National Veterinary Services Laboratory found cases of “Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, H5, in lesser scaup, black vultures and other wild birds.”

Wildlife experts are now investigating bird deaths that have occurred in Brevard, Volusia, and Indian River counties to see if they were linked to the same virus. Just last week, the Brevard Zoo announced it was closing its bird experiences to the public as a safety precaution.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the strain was found in blue-winged teal birds from Palm Beach County in January of 2022. Zoo officials said the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has reported positive cases of the illness in several wild birds in parts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, and Florida.

Experts stated that the chance of the flu being transmitted from bird to human is low, and there have not been any human infections as of this report. 

Still, the FWC is urging Florida residents and visitors to avoid touching dead or sick wildlife, keep domestic birds at a distance from wild birds, and report any wild bird mortalities. If it is necessary to handle sick or dead wildlife, impermeable gloves, handwashing with soap and water, and clothing changes are all recommended. 

The FWC said that since the virus cannot be treated and spreads easily among birds, wildlife rehabbers may not accept sick birds of any kind.

In the meantime, Florida wildlife officials are working closely with the United States Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, National Wildlife Health Center, Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, the University of Florida, Florida Department of Health, and wildlife rehabilitators to investigate mortality events involving wild birds.

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