New Bird Flu strain detected in Michigan

The deadly pathogen is prevalent in wild and domestic birds
The snowy owl is one of the bird species in Michigan to have tested positive for the virus
The snowy owl is one of the bird species in Michigan to have tested positive for the virus(Michigan DNR)
Published: Mar. 30, 2022 at 7:00 PM EDT
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UPPER MICHIGAN, Mich. (WLUC) - A new deadly pathogen strain is sweeping across bird populations in the U.S.

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), or Bird Flu, has resurfaced for the first time in several years and has been detected in Michigan.

“Our first detection was March 15, which was a mute swan polled as part of routine removal activity from wildlife services in Monroe County,” said Megan Moriarty, Michigan DNR Wildlife Disease Specialist.

Six Canadian geese, two tundra swans, and two snowy owls have also tested positive. Currently, all positive tests have been in lower Michigan. Moriarty says it is not a matter of if, but when the pathogen will spread to the U.P.

“Often [the pathogen] will follow these migratory bird pathways. All along the Atlantic flyway, the Mississippi flyway, which we are a part of, and the Central flyway as well,” Moriarty said.

With migration season ahead, wildlife centers across the U.P. are already preparing for positive cases.

“I have already begun to turn away any sick bird that is in the environment,” Michelle Anderson, Keweenaw Wild Bird Rec Director.

According to the CDC, the threat to humans is low. The Michigan DNR says no human infections have been detected. This virus should not impact consumers buying poultry at the store.

“We have excellent bio-security for food that enters the food chain in the United States. Generally, eggs and meat are considered safe,” Moriarty said. “People do not need to worry about that, there are a lot of safeguards in place to protect our food chain.”

Even though the threat to humans is low, Moriarty reminds us to always wash your hands before handling raw poultry and cook your meat or eggs to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Humans cannot prevent the spread of avian flu, but we can make it worse.

“In spring and summer, when it comes, there is a lot of natural food up here. I don’t think it is necessary to put feeders out for birds. Any time you congregate wild birds you have a chance for disease transmission,” Anderson.

If you have domestic chickens or birds, Moriarty recommends you move them inside if possible and step up bio-security precautions. If you encounter a sick or dead bird, you should not approach it.

If you see a sick or dead wild bird, call the Michigan DNR at 715-336-5030.

If you see a sick or dead domestic bird, call the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development at 1-800-292-3939

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