Bird flu is sweeping through several wild mammal populations.
At least seven U.S. states have detected the virus in red fox kits, to which the pathogen appeared to be particularly lethal. Two bobcats in Wisconsin, a coyote pup in Michigan and skunks in Canada have also tested positive for the virus, as have foxes, otters, a lynx, a polecat and a badger in Europe. (Two human cases, one in the United States and one in Britain, have been reported as well, both of which were in people who had close contact with birds.)
There is no evidence that mammals play a significant role in spreading the virus, and the risk to humans remains low, experts said. “This is very much still an avian virus,” said Richard Webby, an influenza virologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Read more here.
Maine’s Seals Impacted By Bird Flu
An unusual number of seals are becoming stranded and dying off Maine this summer, and avian influenza is to blame, the federal government said Tuesday.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed that samples from four Maine seals tested positive for the virus. The animals all died or required euthanasia, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
Marine mammal rescuers started to notice an unusually high number of seal strandings in June, and then the USDA conducted the tests, NOAA said in a statement. The rate of dead seal strandings in Maine is about three times the normal rate for the summer and is close to 60, the agency said. Read more here.
Other Bird Flu Update
The US poultry industry has increasingly switched to “the most inhumane method available” to cull tens of millions of birds during the latest outbreak of avian influenza, according to government data.
Outbreaks of the disease, also known as bird flu, have wreaked havoc across Europe and the US this year, with 38 million birds killed in the US so far.
But how these birds are killed has generated controversy, with veterinarians and animal welfare campaigners urging an end to the use of the ventilation shutdown method, which kills animals by sealing off the airflow to the poultry sheds and increasing temperatures to lethal levels. Read more here.