Public’s help sought as more birds likely victims of bird flu
A growing number of dead or dying sea birds have been reported in the past week, likely the victim of bird flu, prompting a call for the public to avoid touching or removing sick, injured or dead birds from coastal areas, the Marion Board of Health reports.
The avian influenza, officially known as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), rarely affects humans but has been detected in domestic and wild birds from Canada to Florida for the past several months, wildlife officials report.
“Over the past week, Massachusetts has seen a substantial uptick in reports of dead and dying seabirds, including eiders, cormorants, and gulls,” said Andrew Vitz, MassWildlife State Ornithologist. “We are asking for the public’s help in reporting observations of sick shorebirds along the coastline. Prompt reporting will expedite testing and diagnosis in cooperation with our state and federal partners who have been monitoring HPAI for several years.”
Impacted seabirds include, but are not limited to, seagulls, ducks, terns, and cormorants. If a wild sick, injured, or dying bird is encountered, the public is asked to make a report at mass.gov/reportbirds. Additionally, if an ailing or dead domestic bird is found, contact Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Division of Animal Health at (617) 626-1795.
“Avian Influenza rarely infects humans,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Catherine Brown. “Although the risk is low, direct contact with infected birds or heavily contaminated environments can sometimes spread the disease to people. People are urged not to handle or feed any birds suspected of being infected.”
Observations of any sick, hurt or dead sea bird should be reported. For other species of wild birds, such as songbirds, only report observations of five or more birds found at a single location. The public can report observations at mass.gov/reportbirds.
The public should avoid handling any dead birds or birds showing signs of illness. If an individual must handle birds, please wear nitrile or latex gloves, eye protection, and an N95 face mask.
Both wild and domesticated birds can become infected with HPAI. Raptors, waterfowl and other aquatic birds, and scavengers are most at risk for infection, although any bird species should be considered susceptible. Birds may be infected with HPAI without showing any clinical signs.
Infected birds may die suddenly, have decreased energy, decreased appetite, decreased egg production; soft-shelled or misshapen eggs; swelling of the head, comb, eyelids, wattles, or hocks; nasal discharge, snicking, coughing, or sneezing; uncoordinated gait; or diarrhea.
For more information regarding the disease, visit https://www.mass.gov/news/state-environmental-and-health-officials-suspect-hpai-outbreak-impacting-seabirds-in-massachusetts