A baby fox has tested positive for H5N1 avian flu in Minnesota, state officials revealed Wednesday, in the first reported case in a wild mammal in America.
The state Department of Natural Resources said the fox kit was found outside a fox den and unable to use its hind legs in Anoka County, near Minneapolis.
He was picked up by a family to be taken to a wildlife sanctuary the next morning, but died overnight in their care.
Michelle Carstensen, head of the state’s wildlife health group, told DailyMail.com the fox likely caught the virus after eating infected wild waterfowl or virus-infected domestic fowl on a nearby farm.
The family who picked up the fox to take it to a nearby wildlife sanctuary are themselves being tested for bird flu, Carstensen said. None reported symptoms of illness.
Following the case, foxes are now also being tested for bird flu in Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and New York, she said. Two of them were discovered to have caught bird flu in Ontario, Canada, last week.
The case highlights the risk of bird flu spreading from domestic poultry to other mammals, as well as humans.
Last month, a Colorado prison inmate became the first human to test positive for H5N1 after helping euthanize an infected flock at a poultry farm. The individual was isolated with ‘very mild’ symptoms and is believed to have since made a full recovery.
America is facing one of its worst bird flu outbreaks this year, with more than 24 million chickens and turkeys already slaughtered, driving up the price of meat and eggs across the country.
SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that triggers Covid – may have originally jumped to humans from an animal species like bats, although some theories suggest it was leaked from lab to Wuhan, China.
A baby fox has tested positive for bird flu in Minnesota. State officials said the animal was wild and lived in Anoka County, near the capital Minneapolis. (File image: There is no suggestion the foxes pictured above tested positive for bird flu)
The map above shows the counties that have reported bird flu cases so far this year (marked in purple). America has already had to slaughter more than 24 million chickens and turkeys
Carstensen told DailyMail.com: “The fox was found with neurological symptoms, he was not able to walk well with his hind legs.
“The family intended to put him in a box as it was late evening and take him to a rehabilitation center in the morning. But the animal died overnight.
When asked where he might have caught the virus, she said: “The most common would be what he was feeding on, and as he is a scavenger species there is a plethora of dead things available. for her… so most likely a waterfowl carcass.
“But it is possible that it came from a flock of domestic fowl in the neighborhood. We had a lot of raptor kills because of that.
“It’s very possible that it could even have been in a local chicken coop.”
What is bird flu?
Also known as bird flu, bird flu is an infectious disease of birds caused by a variant of the standard influenza A virus.
Avian flu is unique in that it can be transmitted directly from birds to humans.
There are 15 different strains of the virus. It is the H5N1 strain that infects humans and causes high death rates.
Humans can catch bird flu directly through close contact with live infected birds and those who work with infected chickens are most at risk.
She added: ‘I would remind people not to pick up sick or dead animals. It is much better to call someone to come and help you than to trigger a potential illness event.
The department brought the cub in for routine rabies testing because he had contact with humans.
But they also swabbed it for bird flu, after the reported cases in Canada. This swab came back positive.
An autopsy of the fox revealed he also had brain damage, likely triggered by severe pneumonia.
State officials believe the animal caught the virus because it was young and had a still-developing immune system, unlike older individuals.
Minnesota state veterinarian Dr. Joni Scheftel said Wednesday, “Wild animals can sometimes transmit disease to humans.
“While we usually think of rabies or other well-known diseases as the main concerns, it shows that there are also other risks to keep in mind.”
“The best advice we have for Minnesotans is to avoid contact with wild animals that appear ill or injured and to contact your health care provider if you are bitten or have close contact with wild animals. “
The state said it will now begin testing all sick animals for bird flu alongside typical illnesses, such as rabies and canine distemper.
Minnesota has detected nearly 200 cases of bird flu in wild birds so far in 19 species, mostly waterfowl and raptors.
Bird flu sparked concern in the late 2000s after it emerged that more than 60% of people who caught the virus had died.
But scientists say a recent mutation of the virus means there are now several new strains that are much less deadly to humans.
America is facing one of its worst bird flu outbreaks in years with more than 24 million chickens and turkeys culled due to the virus (stock image)
The United States confirmed its first case of human bird flu in a Colorado man last month, which was also the second case worldwide. The only symptom reported was “tiredness for a few days”.
The Colorado Department of Agriculture said the man – who has not been named – tested negative in repeated swabs. But he and ten other people he worked with have all been placed in precautionary isolation for fear of the virus spreading.
The first case of bird flu was detected in the UK in December 2021, in an asymptomatic man who shared his home with his poultry.
The individual recovered after only mild illness, but his birds all had to be culled.
This year’s bird flu outbreak is one of the worst on record with the strain able to infect all birds including chickens, ducks and even zoo animals.
Several US zoos have had to confine their ostriches and even their penguins due to the disease, denying them access outdoors for fear they will catch the virus.
Bird flu is spread through close contact or through the droppings of migrating waterfowl – such as geese, ducks and shorebirds – and is most often more likely to infect free-range chickens and caged birds outside. inside.
In 2015, the United States experienced another outbreak of bird flu that wiped out an estimated 50 million chickens, costing the industry billions.
A virus that kills up to 50% of humans… but transmission is rare: everything you need to know about bird flu
What is bird flu?
Bird flu, or bird flu, is an infectious type of flu that spreads among species of birds but can, on rare occasions, spread to humans.
Like the human flu, there are many strains of bird flu:
The current bird outbreak in the United States is H5N1, among other strains, which infected an inmate in a Colorado prison.
Where was he spotted in the United States?
Currently, 15 states are reporting cases of bird flu among their poultry. They are Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Minnesota.
A case was also detected in an inmate who worked on a poultry farm in Colorado.
How deadly is the virus?
Bird flu mortality rates in humans have been estimated at 50%.
But because transmission to humans is so rare, around 500 bird flu deaths have been reported to the World Health Organization since 1997.
Is it transmissible from birds to humans?
Cases of bird-to-human transmission are rare and usually do not spread from human to human.
Bird flu is transmitted through close contact with an infected bird or a bird’s body.
This may include:
- touching infected birds
- touching feces or bedding
- kill or prepare infected poultry for cooking
Professor Ian Jones, a virologist at the University of Reading, England, said: ‘Transfer of bird flu to humans is rare as it requires direct contact between an infected, usually dead, bird and the individual. concerning.
“It is a risk for handlers who are tasked with disposing of carcasses after an outbreak, but the virus does not spread generally and poses little threat.
“It does not behave like the seasonal flu that we are used to.
“Despite the current heightened concern about viruses, there is no risk to chicken meat or eggs and no need for public alarm.”
What are the symptoms?
Bird flu symptoms usually take three to five days to appear, the most common being:
- a very high temperature
- or feel hot or shiver
- sore muscles
- a cough or shortness of breath