As a historic outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza continues to circulate in most parts of the world this spring, wildlife officials will continue to monitor nesting and north-migrating birds for signs of illness, , which is supporting efforts to develop a vaccine to combat bird flu. Viruses are present in endangered wild birds and commercial flocks as well.
According to a project organized by Madison Audubon, preliminary data show bald eagle survival rates are high at bald eagle nests in Wisconsin this year, suggesting the disease may be waning. is one of the hopeful signs.
Since the H5N1 virus was detected in North America in the winter of 2021, it has spread across the United States, Mexico, and Latin America. Although every state except Hawaii and every continent except Antarctica and Australia has documented the disease, many wildlife disease experts expect the disease to reach Hawaii. there is
The virus has also affected mammals, including grizzly bears in Montana.
The epidemic is already the worst death toll for U.S. poultry producers in history. Affecting 58.8 million domestic birdsaccording to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
This surpassed the 2015 outbreak of subtype H5N2, which struck about 49 million birds on US farms. According to the USDA, the outbreak cost $1 billion and is considered the costliest animal health emergency in U.S. history.
Economic losses associated with current avian influenza strains have not yet been tallied, but are likely to exceed previous outbreaks.
H5N1 is the deadliest bird flu ever recorded in wild birds
Wild bird damage is much more difficult to assess. However, all indications point to the outbreak of H5N1 in the past two years, making him the deadliest avian flu ever recorded among wild birds.
“This[bird flu outbreak]is an anomaly, the worst we’ve ever seen,” said Sumner Matteson, a conservation biologist at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources who has worked on bird conservation projects for the past 41 years. Told. “I have never seen a disease with such immediate and devastating effects.”
Birds that congregate in flocks or breeding colonies are particularly affected by H5N1, as are birds of prey that scavenge for sick and dead birds infected with the H5N1 virus.
Birds such as ducks, geese, swans, eagles, hawks, pelicans, cranes, gulls and terns were found dead and tested positive for H5N1 during the outbreak.
Bird flu devastates Caspian tern populations along Door Peninsula
Last June, Mattson documented the loss of more than 1,000 Caspian terns to bird flu on two islands along the Door Peninsula in northeastern Wisconsin. Mortality was estimated at 64% of the state’s breeding population of the endangered species.
Matheson said being among so many dead, sick and dying birds and realizing there was nothing he could do was the most disturbing experience of his career.
A dead Caspian tern was found on the shores of Lake Michigan in Ozaukee County in April and is likely a victim of bird flu, Mattson said.
“The disease may be less prominent this year, but it’s still there,” Matheson said.
Matheson plans to visit Door County in early June to see how Caspian terns and other birds are breeding.
Wisconsin’s Beacon of Hope in the Eagle’s Nest
The virus was also linked last year to a significant decline in bald eagle production in Wisconsin.Bald Eagle Nest Monitoring Program run by Madison Audubon Eagles found in only 35% of 110 nests The success rate over the past four years has been about 80%.
But this year, the trend has reversed, and as of late May, 89% of active nests monitored by volunteers had at least one eagle, according to Madison Audubon’s Brenna Marsicek. It says. The year-over-year changes recorded in eagle productivity may be the first glimpse into the easing of the virus’ impact, at least in Wisconsin.
Last year, the disease was recorded in wild birds in every state except Hawaii and in commercial production facilities in the United States and abroad.Brazil in recent times declared an animal health emergency because of the virus.
California condor in danger
US officials on May 16 announced the emergency use of bird flu vaccines to protect the endangered California condor, which was once bred from extinction.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for help after finding California condors dead from highly pathogenic avian influenza in March. Since then, at least 13 condors with bird flu have died, all near the Arizona-Utah border, according to the USDA.
The deaths have alarmed wildlife officials, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, attributed to the California condor, which has an estimated global population of 561 by the end of 2022, including three western states. and 347 free-flying birds and 214 in captivity in Mexico.
However, the vaccine must first be tested. The Wildlife Service plans to conduct a pilot safety study in vultures before using it on condors, said Wildlife spokeswoman Joanna Gilkson, who said the vaccine will be tested on wild birds in the United States. It will be the first time that it will be done.
Bird flu is found in humans and other mammals
The disease has also manifested itself in humans and other mammals. A relatively small number of human cases involved people who had extensive contact with poultry.
In wildlife, the virus has been detected in raccoons, skunks, red foxes, possums, coyotes and grizzly bears, according to the USDA.
Last fall, three young grizzly bears were found in Montana in poor condition and were euthanized. All tested positive for H5N1. Veterinarians at the Montana Fish and Wildlife Park suspect that bears and other wild mammals contracted the virus after eating infected birds.
So far, it has not been proven that mammals can spread disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention We consider the risk of HPAI to humans to be very low.
However, it is advisable to take precautions such as wearing gloves when handling game birds. And health officials are advising people to avoid contact with sick or dead wild animals. Gloves should always be worn if an animal must be handled for disposal, even if there is no suspicion that the animal has died of an infectious disease.
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