Avian flu continues in Volusia County.
Written by Kristen Schmutz
Belden Communications News
The avian flu, or highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), is a highly contagious viral infection that occurs naturally in birds and continues to be detected here in Volusia County.
Volusia County had its first documented cases of the avian flu in February. The disease was found in three sick water birds that were brought to the Marine Science Center for treatment, and when park rangers at Hontoon Island State Park noticed that black vultures were dying at higher-than-normal rates.
According to a release, wild birds can carry the virus but may not always show signs of illness, introducing the disease to new areas when migrating, potentially exposing domestic poultry. Vultures are most concerning because they can pick up the virus while feeding on carcasses. Domesticated birds such as chickens, ducks, and turkeys are also at risk because they seem to have less ability to fight off the disease.
Humans have a low risk of having the avian flu transmitted to them. However, in late April, the CDC confirmed the first human case documented in the United States, when a Colorado man who had direct exposure to poultry and culling birds with presumptive bird flu, was sickened. He has since recovered after experiencing fatigue.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), avian flu is currently in 34 states. The top three states with the avian flu are North Dakota, North Carolina, and Florida with 197 cases, 143 cases, and 74 cases, respectively.
Florida's cases of the avian flu may increase as northern birds migrate south this fall.
“The outbreak in Florida is believed to have followed the introduction of the virus last year from Europe into Canada. The virus then traveled with migratory waterfowl down the Atlantic Flyway to Florida and other states. The current outbreak of HPAI in wild birds in Florida is unprecedented,” said the USDA on their website.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has confirmed cases in twenty-five counties, and officials have been coordinating closely with other state and federal agencies to monitor, investigate and document the disease in Florida.
According to Tracy Dawson, Manager of the Marine Science Center’s bird hospital, most of the current Volusia County cases are in black vultures. Other species affected in Florida include bald eagles, great horned owls, and mallard and Muscovy ducks.
“The Marine Science Center’s eighteen permanent avian ambassadors remain healthy. The bird hospital remains closed to bird admissions; however, the bird exhibits are open to public viewing,” said Dawson.
The public should avoid handling sick or dead wild birds, keep wild birds away from domestic birds, and report wild bird mortalities at https://app.myfwc.com/FWRI/AvianMortality/ to prevent the further spread of the disease.