Michigan confirms first cases of highly pathogenic bird flu

Canada geese chicks toddle behind their mother in a park in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, on Monday, May, 18, 2015.

DETROIT (AP) — Michigan’s first cases of highly pathogenic bird flu have been found in free-ranging Canada Geese north of Detroit, according to state officials.

Tests performed on three goslings collected between May 28 and June 1 in Macomb County’s Sterling Heights confirmed the presence of the H5N2 avian influenza.

The virus has been found in 20 other states, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says, and Midwest chicken and turkey producers have lost nearly 47 million birds on over 200 farms since early March.

“We’ve been watching this closely and cancelled all poultry exhibitions and expositions statewide through the remainder of the calendar year 2015 … as a step to reduce the risk of disease transmission among poultry in Michigan,” state veterinarian James Averill said.

Bird flu also can infect other free-ranging and domestic poultry such as chickens, turkeys and quail. There has been no detection of the disease in domestic poultry, Averill added.

If avian flu is found in a poultry operation, that facility will be placed under quarantine and no poultry or poultry products will be allowed to leave, Averill said. Infected birds may show difficulty walking, lack of appetite and a drop in egg production.

The Sterling Heights goslings were about a week old and exhibited seizures and head tremors, said Steve Schmitt, a wildlife veterinarian with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. They were found by residents near a popular shopping mall and taken to a local veterinarian.

The state is now focused on preventing the disease’s spread in wildlife and its transmission to domestic poultry, DNR director Keith Creagh said.

The state will monitor birds in a 10-mile radius around the area where the confirmed cases were found and create a management zone that will include Macomb and Oakland counties.

No human bird flu infections have been reported in the United States.

People should observe wild birds from a distance and avoid contact with domestic birds that appear ill or have died, officials said.

“What may affect animals may cross over to humans (but) we consider the risk to people from these viruses to be low,” said Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive with the state Department of Health and Human Services.

From 2006 through 2014, the DNR tested 8,762 wild birds for various subtypes of avian influenza and 1,534 were positive.

“All the previous cases … were low pathogenic AI,” DNR spokesman Ed Golder said. “These are the first highly pathogenic AI cases we’ve had in the state.”

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