- Three of the foxes died, while one survived but became blind
- Cases in wild mammals have also been reported in Minnesota and Ontario recently
- People are being advised to avoid wildlife, especially if they appear sick or dying
Three wild foxes have died of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in Michigan. The deaths come after recent reports of the disease in other foxes in North America.
The red fox kits were found from April 1 to 14, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) noted in a news release. They came from separate dens and reportedly had neurologic symptoms. The three eventually died, while a fourth one survived but ended up blind and is therefore “non-releasable,” according to the agency. As such, the kit will be kept at a local center.
Their cause of death was confirmed to be HPAI Wednesday evening, making these the first cases of HPAI in wild mammals in the state.
Foxes in other parts of North America have also been affected by HPAI recently. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources also reported a positive case of HPAI in a wild fox just this week. That, too, was the state’s first confirmed HPAI case in a wild mammal. Canadian authorities also reported cases of HPAI in two fox kits in Ontario earlier in May. One of the foxes was already dead while the other also showed neurologic signs before eventually dying. The cases in Canada are said to be the first such cases in wild mammals in North America.
“Although these cases represent the first detections of influenza A (H5N1) viruses in wild mammals in Ontario, influenza A (H5N1) virus is known to affect a variety of wild mammals, including wild fox kits in Europe,” the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative noted.
“At this point, it is unclear how the fox kits became infected, but it’s possible that they were exposed by consuming infected birds, such as waterfowl,” Megan Moriarty of Michigan DNR, state wildlife veterinarian, said in the agency news release.
So far, the public health risk of HPAI remains “low,” but people are being advised to be careful. Dr. Joni Scheftel of the Minnesota Department of Health suggests that people should avoid wildlife, especially if they look sick or injured. If anyone gets bitten, they should contact their health care provider
Those who have found a sick bird should avoid touching the creature but may contact authorities to help in possibly tracking the virus. In Michigan, for instance, people may use the DNR’s Eyes in the Field app, while those in Minnesota may contact the Minnesota DNR at 888-646-6367.
People may also find more resources about the situation here.
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