RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Wake County and three coastal counties have now reported the first documented wild bird deaths due to highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), according to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC).
According to wildlife officials, the deaths include a snow goose in Hyde County, a redhead duck in Carteret County, a bald eagle in Dare County and a red-shouldered hawk here in Wake County.
The snow goose and redhead duck “were observed with neurological signs consistent with HPAI prior to being euthanized,” a release from the NCWRC said.
Both the hawk and eagle were found dead.
Testing performed by labs at the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center and the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study both “detected [the] presence of avian influenza virus [and] HPAI was confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames, Iowa,” according to the release.
Whether the virus is considered “low pathogenic” or “highly pathogenic” is based on its ability to cause disease in domestic poultry.
Wild bird deaths can occur with HPAI in birds that prey on waterfowl or scavenge from an infected carcass.
Wild waterfowl don’t often show signs of the disease and there is a low risk of transmission of HPAI to humans, NCWRC said. There have been no known human infections in North America.
“If someone comes across a mortality event involving five or more waterbirds or waterfowl, or a mortality event of any size for raptors or avian scavengers, including crows, ravens and gulls, we want to know about them,” said Sarah Van de Berg, a wildlife biologist with the Wildlife Commission. “We are particularly interested in morbidity events involving any number of those same bird species that are observed with clinical signs consistent with neurological impairment, like swimming in circles, head tilt and lack of coordination.”
People are encouraged to report wild bird behavior as described by Van de Berg to the NC Wildlife Helpline at 866-318-2401, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., or email HWI@ncwildlife.org. Sick or dying captive birds should be reported to a local veterinarian, the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Science (NCDA&CS) Veterinary Division at 919-707-3250, or the N.C. Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System at 919-733-3986.
For more information on HPAI, visit the NCDA&CS website.
All bird deaths attributed to HPAI or birds otherwise testing positive are being tracked by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Check here for an up-to-date listing.