UTAH (ABC4) – Utah wildlife officials have confirmed two Utah foxes have tested positive and died from the avian flu on Thursday.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) says the first case was discovered on May 24 after a deceased red fox was found in the backyard of a Murray home. The second deceased red fox was found two days later in a Taylorsville backyard.
While no dead birds were found near the foxes, authorities believe the animals either came into contact with or consumed an infected bird.
“While it does happen, it’s not very common for wildlife species other than birds to get highly pathogenic avian influenza,” says DWR Veterinarian Ginger Stout. “Some states have had one or two cases in wild mammals, but it’s pretty infrequent and it seems to affect younger animals more often when it does occur.”
The first case of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) virus was discovered in Utah back in April.
Currently, 25 wild birds spanning over six Utah counties have tested positive for the virus including in Cache, Weber, Salt Lake, Utah, Tooele and Carbon counties.
The virus is spread through nasal and oral discharge along with fecal droppings and can cause “rapid and high mortality in domestic birds, such as chickens, turkeys and domestic ducks,” says DWR.
The bird species affected include raptors and waterbirds, specifically Canadian geese, great horned owls, hawks, pelicans, turkey vultures and ducks. Officials say results from other deceased birds are still processing at this time.
According to the DWR, the virus can easily spread to backyard poultry and domestic birds through contaminated shoes or vehicles. Utah bird owners are urged to continually monitor their birds for signs and symptoms of potential avian influenza infection.
“We urge bird owners with flocks of all sizes to take extreme caution with their bird’s habitats,” said Utah State Veterinarian, Dr. Dean Taylor. “The more potential exposure the birds may have to wild and migrating birds, the greater the risk of the flock contracting the disease.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the recent HPAI detections do not present an immediate public health concern.
Earlier this year, the first case of human bird flu infection was discovered in a Colorado prison. Officials say the infected man had been in a prerelease program focusing on removing chickens from an infected farm.
“If anyone finds a group of five or more dead waterfowl or shorebirds — or any individual dead scavengers or raptors — they should report it to the nearest DWR office and absolutely make sure not to touch the birds or pick them up,” says Stout. “Just report it to us, and we will come collect them for testing. We are continuing to monitor this virus in wild bird populations. It typically doesn’t have much of an impact on the overall populations of waterfowl, but it’s likely that we will have some die now that it’s been confirmed in wild birds in the state.”
For more information about the current avian flu outbreak in wild birds, click here.
To report any symptoms of avian flu in domestic birds, contact the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
To see all the latest cases of avian flu in wild Utah animals, click here.