Virus that has killed dozens of birds appears in Minnesota’s first wild mammal

An Anoka County fox kit has tested positive for a deadly, highly contagious bird flu that has killed countless wild birds this spring, worrying wildlife experts.

The positive case is the first confirmed of highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI, in a wild mammal in Minnesota, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

It’s not unprecedented — two red fox kits in Ontario tested positive for the flu strain last week, the DNR said in a news release Wednesday. These were the first cases reported in mammals in North America.

The University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory alerted DNR to the kit case. MNR wildlife health specialists will add avian flu to routine screening when sick foxes are brought to the lab, the agency said.

Some waterfowl such as ducks and geese are considered hosts for bird viruses, which are spread during migration. The current outbreak, which originated in Europe, has been more widespread and aggressive than the last outbreak in 2015, and it has also significantly affected the poultry industry.

Waterfowl were hit hard and, in turn, raptors that ate their carcasses. The DNR said testing so far in Minnesota has confirmed bird flu in about 200 wild birds, including 19 species.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health officials have said the risk to the public remains low.

“The best advice we have for Minnesotans is to avoid contact with wild animals that appear sick or injured and to contact your healthcare provider if you are bitten or have other close contact with them. wild animals,” said Dr. Joni Scheftel, of public health at the Minnesota Department of Health. veterinarian, in the MNR press release.

People who see sick or dead birds are encouraged to call the MNR hotline at 888-646-6367.

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