SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, June 9, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — Tests have confirmed that two foxes found dead last month, in residential yards in Murray and Taylorville, were infected with avian flu.
The first dead fox was found on May 24 in Murray, and the second on May 26 in Taylorsville.
“They were both collected by DWR officials and sent to the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Logan for testing,” a statement from Utah Department of Natural Resources says.
“Samples were then sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, which confirmed they had highly pathogenic avian influenza. Both foxes tested negative for rabies.”
First known Utah case
Utah’s first confirmation of an avian flu case came in April with the diagnosis in Cache County in a backyard flock of birds.
“As of June 8, 25 wild birds have tested positive for avian flu in six counties in Utah, including Cache, Weber, Salt Lake, Utah, Tooele and Carbon counties,” the Utah DWR statement says.
“The birds include raptors and waterbirds, specifically Canada geese, great horned owls, hawks, pelicans, turkey vultures and ducks. Test results from other bird mortalities are currently pending.”
In the case of the foxes, “it is suspected the foxes each came into contact with or ate a bird that was infected with the virus,” the statement says.
DWR Veterinarian Ginger Stout said cases of avian flu in mammals are rare.
“While it does happen, it’s not very common for wildlife species other than birds to get highly pathogenic avian influenza,” she said. “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.”
High pathogenic avian influenza viruses are very contagious among birds and can cause rapid and high mortality in domestic birds, such as chickens, turkeys and domestic ducks, UDNR statement said.
The most common wild birds impacted by the virus, according to the UDNR press release, are typically waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors and scavengers (which include birds like hawks, owls, ravens and vultures).
There are usually few symptoms in waterfowl and shorebirds, but the virus can kill raptors and scavengers quickly. The virus is spread among birds through nasal and oral discharge, as well as fecal droppings. It can be spread to backyard poultry and domestic birds through contaminated shoes or vehicles, the UDNR release said.
Songbirds are not typically affected by avian flu, so people shouldn’t have to remove their bird feeders unless they also have backyard chickens or domestic ducks, which are susceptible to the virus. However, it’s always recommended to regularly clean bird feeders and baths, according to the UDNR.
Although the current strain of the avian flu presents a low risk to people, it has been confirmed in at least one person in Colorado during this most recent outbreak. Visit the CDC website for more information on keeping yourself safe, the UDNR says.