Avian influenza detected in first wild bird in Texas

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When Eric Folkerth, a senior pastor at Kessler Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, heard that highly pathogenic bird flu was circling the United States, he brought four large bird feeders he had around. from his house.

With the avian flu that is raging this year among bird populations in the United States, killing millionsFolkerth said he’s heard reports that bringing his feeders indoors could help prevent the spread.

“It was the first time I was aware of this bird flu and the anxiety it causes,” he said by telephone. He hopes soon to receive official advice on whether he can put his feeders back in place.

As of April 20, more than 32 million birds across the country have been affected by this year’s strain of bird flu, according to the Zoosanitary and phytosanitary inspection service.

Now the first case has been detected in a wild bird in Texas. After a great horned owl at a Wichita County rehab center began showing flu symptoms, the National Veterinary Services Laboratory reported it to the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife. This follows the detection of influenza in a commercial flock of pheasants in Erath County early last month.

The flu is highly contagious, according to Texas wildlife officials, and can easily spread among wild and domestic birds. So far, it has been detected in 38 states in the United States. Although birds do not always show symptoms, they risk diarrhea, incoordination, lethargy, coughing and sneezing, and sudden death. The virus can be spread in several ways, including through contact with an infected bird population or through contamination of equipment, clothing or people handling the birds themselves.

“At this time, given the distance between this new case and the zoo, we will not change our plans immediately.” -Dallas Zoo

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The Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife recommends facilities with wild or domestic bird populations strengthen their biosecurity measures to reduce the risk of transmission. People should also limit their contact with wild birds. Wildlife professionals who collect birds should also look for symptoms and consider quarantining them to limit exposure.

Although the risk of transmission to humans remains low, the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife says people should wear gloves and masks and wash their hands if contact with wild birds cannot be avoided. . If you come into contact with a bird showing symptoms, the department says you should contact them or contact the regional office of the Texas Animal Health Commission.

After the first case in a Texas commercial bird population was detected in early April, the Dallas Zoo removed most of its birds from display. This first case was within 100 miles of the zoo. “We are taking every precaution to ensure the safety and health of our birds,” the Dallas Zoo said on its Facebook page April 4. “For this reason, many of our birds will remain behind the scenes, away from their public habitats until the threat has passed, including African penguins, flamingos and more.

The Forest Aviary and Birds Landing exhibits were also closed to the public.

The zoo said it was following recommendations from the US Department of Agriculture to prevent the spread of the virus. At the end of the month, the Dallas Zoo was bringing back some of its birds to its front displays for attendees to view. As no new cases were reported within 100 miles of the zoo, he felt the threat had passed.

“Penguins are in their pool and our Wings of Wonder habitats are filling up again,” the zoo said April 29. the [highly pathogenic avian influenza] the situation remains stable.

Just the day before the zoo announced the return of some of the exhibits, the first human case of bird flu was reported in a Colorado man. The infected person worked on a commercial farm.

The Dallas Zoo told the Observer Thursday that he was aware of the Wichita County case and would “remain vigilant in monitoring the situation.” But they said there were no plans yet to attend any of the bird shows, largely because Texas’ latest case is outside the 100-mile radius that the zoo is concerned about.

“At this time, given the distance between this new case and the zoo, we will not immediately change our plans,” the zoo said in an emailed statement. “Birds that have been returned to their outdoor habitats will remain there, but we will not hesitate to move the birds out of the habitat if the situation changes. All of our safety and security policies for staff and volunteers, including biosecurity measures and screening questions for anyone who comes into contact with birds, remain in place. »

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