Bird flu has been found in 10 wild birds across the state, causing authorities great concern.
The first case was discovered in April in Cache County but has now spread to Weber, Tooele, Salt Lake and Carbon counties, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Some of the birds confirmed to have died from the virus include a Canada goose and two pelicans found on the shore of Scofield Reservoir in Carbon County between May 13 and May 16. A lab in Logan discovered highly pathogenic avian influenza in each of the birds, which is extremely contagious and causes a high mortality rate in domestic birds, including chickens, turkeys and domestic ducks. The viruses can also kill wild birds, typically infecting hawks, raptors, waterfowl, owls, crows and vultures.
“If anyone finds a group of five or more dead water or shorebirds or dead scavengers or raptors, they should report it to the nearest DWR office and be sure not to touch the birds or pick them up. “said Ginger Stout, a DWR veterinarian. “Just let us know, and we’ll pick them up to test them.”
The virus is transmitted through nasal and oral secretions and faeces. It can also spread to backyard poultry and domestic birds through contaminated shoes or vehicles.
“Waterfowl and shorebirds have evolved with the virus, so they rarely die from it, but they carry it and can transmit it to other birds,” Stout said. “So anything that comes into contact with them, such as domestic poultry or other wild birds, can infect them and the mortality rate for these birds is very high. Domestic birds usually start showing symptoms quite quickly.
Because songbirds aren’t usually affected by bird flu, people don’t need to remove their feeders unless they also have backyard chickens or domestic ducks, Stout said. If you live near a river or lake and have domestic fowl, be sure to fence off the area and keep them as far away as possible.
If you have bird feeders and baths, always clean them regularly, at least once a week, Stout said. A solution of vinegar and water can be used to clean birdbaths. Just be sure to rinse them well before filling them with fresh water.
Birds carrying the virus may show no symptoms. If symptoms are present, they may include lack of energy, appetite and coordination, coughing, sneezing and decreased egg production.
Humans are at very low risk of contracting the current strain of the virus. However, it has been confirmed in at least one person in Colorado.
The virus is transmitted to humans when it enters the eyes, nose or mouth, or when inhaled as droplets or dust, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Asian H7N9 and H5N1 lineages are responsible for most human disease. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include fatigue, fever, eye infections, sore throat, muscle aches, and cough. If you have symptoms, get medical help fast.
You can protect yourself by limiting contact with wild birds or sick or dead poultry by wearing gloves and washing your hands with soap and water after touching birds. Wearing a medical mask is also recommended by the CDC. However, avoiding direct contact with wild birds is strongly encouraged. Also, do not touch any surface that may be contaminated with saliva, mucus or droppings from wild or domestic birds.
“We continue to monitor this virus in wild bird populations,” Stout said. “It usually doesn’t have much of an impact on overall waterfowl populations, but it’s likely we’ll die of it now that it’s been confirmed in wild birds across the state.”
To report any symptoms of avian flu in domestic birds, contact the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food at 801-982-2200 Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.