Four N.C. birds confirmed dead from avian flu
Wild bird deaths due to highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI, have been documented in four North Carolina counties, and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is encouraging people to report potentially sick birds to the N.C. Wildlife Helpline.
So far, mortalities have been documented in a snow goose in Hyde County, a redhead duck in Carteret County, a red-shouldered hawk in Wake County and a bald eagle in Dare County. The snow goose and redhead duck were observed with neurological signs consistent with HPAI prior to being euthanized, and the hawk and eagle were found dead. The National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames, Iowa, confirmed that the birds were infected with HPAI.
The Wildlife Commission announced the first waterfowl testing positive for HPAI in January, with the infected birds collected during the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s wild bird surveillance program. They were asymptomatic, hunter-harvested birds. Only recently have biologists confirmed mortality from HPAI.
Wild birds can die from HPAI, especially raptors that prey on waterfowl and avian scavengers feeding on infected carcasses. Wild waterfowl don’t typically exhibit signs of disease, and risk of transmission to humans is rare.
To date, there have not been any known human infections in North America. According to a database of confirmed cases from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, HPAI has not been confirmed in any North Carolina commercial or backyard poultry flocks this year. The only case in a neighboring state was confirmed Feb. 12 in Faquier County, Virginia — the northern part of the state — in a backyard flock of 90 birds.
“If someone comes across a mortality event involving five or more waterbirds or waterfowl, or a mortality event of any size for raptors or avian scavengers, including crows, ravens and gulls, we want to know about them,” said Sarah Van de Berg, wildlife biologist with the Wildlife Commission. “We are particularly interested in morbidity events involving any number of those same bird species that are observed with clinical signs consistent with neurological impairment, like swimming in circles, head tilt and lack of coordination.”