New strain of avian flu causes concerns in Florida, officials urge caution handling birds

ORLANDO, Fla. — The bird flu is becoming an issue in the Sunshine State.

Last week after several cases of bird flu were reported in Brevard County, the Brevard Zoo announced it was closing its bird experiences to the public as a precaution.

Zoo officials said the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has reported positive cases of the illness in wild birds in parts of South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky and Florida.

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On Sunday, the Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge posted a message on Facebook, which stated that it can’t take any birds and how Animal Services in Orange and Osceola counties will not transport any birds “due to the 2022 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) virus that has been detected in Florida.”

The post said the HPAI strain has been known to infect birds and some mammals - including humans - especially in rehabilitation situations.

The Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge recommends to not touch birds at all and if you must, to wear personal protective equipment.

Read: Brevard Zoo closes bird experiences to the public due to Avian flu risk

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website in January 2022, “Samples collected by USDA-Wildlife Services from hunter-harvested blue-winged teal in Palm Beach County have tested positive for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) strain: H5N1 2.3.4.4b Eurasian.”

No known human infections with Eurasian H5 viruses have occurred in the United States, according to the website.

Read: Rents reach ‘insane’ levels across Florida and US with no end in sight

FWC offered tips to prevent the spread of HPAI:

  • -Report bird mortalities so die-offs can be investigated and tested.
  • -Prevent contact of domestic or captive birds with wild birds (especially waterfowl).
  • -Do not handle sick/dead wildlife. If it is necessary to do so, then wear impermeable gloves, wash hands with soap and water, and change clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds.
  • -Hunters and others handling birds should follow the routine precautions listed below when handling wild birds.

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that bird owners review their biosecurity practices and stay vigilant to protect poultry and pet birds from this disease.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is working closely with state partners on surveillance, reporting, and control efforts.

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