can magpies get bird flu

An outbreak of avian flu that has been spreading across the United States and Canada over the past six months only seems to be getting worse. First appearing in Canada last fall, the flu has ravaged industrial flocks and has now been detected in a wide variety of North American wild birds, raising alarms among ecologists.

A particularly virulent strain known as highly pathogenic avian influenza A (H5N1), or HPAI, the flu has already killed millions of domestic North American fowl, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). To date, more than 28 million domestic poultry in 29 states have died either through infection or preventative culling. In Canada, seven provinces have detected the virus in commercial and backyard poultry.

The flu has also appeared in wild flocks in unprecedented numbers, with more than 700 positive birds collected from 31 states and nine Canadian provinces—numbers that indicate a much larger outbreak as they only account for sick or dead birds that have been tested. All together, more than 40 species have been confirmed infected with the virus, a list that includes everything from Mallards and Black-billed Magpies to Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons. Wild waterfowl, such as ducks and geese, and raptors, which prey on these species, make up the majority of cases. In Florida, more than 1,000 Lesser Scaups died as part of an ongoing mortality event. And last week at Baker’s Lake Nature Preserve in Chicago, 200 wild birds believed to be infected were found dead.

This particular strain of HPAI appears to be more infectious and deadly to wild birds than previous versions, but gauging the pathogens true impact on wild populations is more difficult than with domestic poultry, whose numbers are regularly recorded, says Andy Ramey, director of the Molecular Ecology Laboratory at the United State Geological Survey’s (USGS) Alaska Science Center. “There might be numerous birds affected, but only a small subset of the carcasses are actually collected and sent in for diagnostics.”

So far, the strain is a low public health threat with no cases of human infection having occurred in the United States, according to the CDC.

The virus, which can cause severe neurological and respiratory issues in avians, was likely transmitted by wild birds contaminated from last year’s Eurasian HPAI outbreak, says Julianna Lenoch, a veterinary epidemiologist with APHIS whose team followed the strain’s year-and-a-half spread throughout Europe and Asia. Lenoch believes migratory birds may have carried the strain from Western Europe through Iceland and Greenland before arriving in Eastern Canada. Once the flu made landfall in North America, the National Wildlife Disease Program at APHIS sequenced positive samples collected along the Atlantic Flyway. “Those sequences match very, very closely with what was circulating in Europe in the spring of 2021,” she says.

A milder version of the avian flu, called low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI,) is present year-round in North American wild birds, usually leading to mild infections at most. Many wild birds infected with LPAI may show no symptoms at all. But when LPAI spreads to domestic poultry, it can mutate into the much more aggressive HPAI strain, which can then be transmitted back to wild populations.

The last case of HPAI in North American wild birds occurred in 2015. That outbreak resulted in the deaths of more than 50 million domestic birds in 15 states and accounted for 98 detections in infected wild birds—a number that pales in comparison to this year’s confirmed cases. “In previous outbreaks, we’ve appreciated that wild birds carry the virus, but they don’t actually get sick from it,” says Lenoch. “They’re kind of silent carriers.”

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According to Andy Ramey, director of the Molecular Ecology Laboratory at the USGS Alaska Science Center, this specific strain of HPAI appears to be more contagious and lethal to wild birds than previous versions. However, determining the pathogen’s true impact on wild populations is more challenging than with domestic poultry, whose numbers are regularly recorded. Even though many birds may be afflicted, only a tiny portion of the carcasses are actually gathered and sent in for examination. ”.

Unprecedented numbers of wild flocks have also been infected with the flu; over 700 positive birds have been collected from 31 states and nine Canadian provinces; these numbers suggest a much larger outbreak, as they only include tested sick or dead birds. Over 40 species have been identified as having contracted the virus, ranging from mallards and black-billed magpies to bald eagles and great blue herons. Most cases involve wild waterfowl, including ducks and geese, and raptors that hunt these animals. Over a thousand Lesser Scaups perished in Florida as a result of an ongoing mortality event. Additionally, 200 wild birds at Chicago’s Baker’s Lake Nature Preserve that were thought to be infected were discovered dead last week.

Birds that do show symptoms often act disoriented or uncoordinated and exhibit strange head movements, O’Neil says. Respiratory symptoms such as sneezing and nasal discharge are also often present. According to the CDC, anyone who sees birds exhibiting strange symptoms should call their state health or wildlife agency for guidance, a move which can also help track the progression of the outbreak.

The wildlife manager of Lake Metroparks Wildlife Care in Ohio, Tammy O’Neil, says that after confirmed cases began to appear in the state, her facility made the decision to stop taking wild birds. She claims that it is challenging to keep an eye on the outbreak because waterfowl don’t exhibit any symptoms and the virus can live for extended periods of time outside of its host.

According to Lenoch, the USDA will keep collaborating with other governmental organizations to monitor the flu’s spread and notify concerned citizens. She adds that reporting suspected cases and using extreme caution if one may have been exposed are two more ways the public can stop this outbreak from spreading. “This is a virus to take seriously,” Lenoch says. “If possible, we would prefer not to have any more introductions.” ”.

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Which birds carry bird flu?

Which birds are most likely to be infected with avian (bird) influenza (flu) A viruses? Wild birds that carry bird flu viruses include waterbirds, like ducks, geese and swans, and shorebirds, like storks. Bird flu viruses can easily spread from wild birds to poultry, like chickens and turkeys.

Is bird flu fatal to all birds?

Avian influenza, or “bird flu,” is a respiratory disease of birds caused by influenza A viruses. Wild birds, such as ducks, gulls, and shorebirds, can carry and spread these viruses but may show no signs of illness. However, avian influenza can kill domestic poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese).

Do doves carry bird flu?

Collectively, results of 32 field studies representing 24 countries across four continents indicate an antibody prevalence of 8.01% in pigeons and doves but only 0.37% of the total was associated with exposure to the same serotype as a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak occurring in poultry at the time.

Can you get bird flu from touching birds?

In parts of the world where this bird flu is present, some people have gotten sick after touching sick or dead birds with bare hands. Others have gotten sick who live in areas where there are lots of droppings from sick birds.