Wildlife officials suggest skipping the bird feeder this year

MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) — Following the detection of highly pathogenic avian flu in 31 states, some wildlife officials are making suggestions to help prevent the spread of the virus.

According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), bird flu is a highly contagious virus that can be spread in a variety of ways from flock to flock, including wild birds, contact with infected poultry, on equipment and on the clothes and shoes of keepers.

Nearly 27 million chickens and turkeys were culled in 26 states to limit the spread of bird flu during this year’s outbreak. Authorities order entire herds to be killed when the virus is found on farms.

Bird flu has also been found in 637 wild birds, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bird flu can spread among wild birds, especially those that congregate, such as vultures or eagles at a kill site. To keep the birds – and yourself – safe, you might want to reconsider the things that encourage animals to congregate.

“All of these congregating birds are susceptible, especially waterfowl,” said Brian Roell, a biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “I know people who live on lakes who like to get out of the corn and watch these birds, but this would be the year for bird safety and your own safety that you don’t attract this waterfowl to your backyard.”

Roell said bird flu isn’t usually seen in songbirds, but it’s possible it’s spread through backyard bird feeders. He suggested skipping feeders this year. With the onset of warm weather, birds can find their own food sources.

Other wildlife officials agree. “During these unprecedented times, we recommend doing everything we can to try to help our wild bird populations. Because the science is unclear about the role of songbirds in this current H5N1 outbreak, one consideration is not to encourage birds to congregate in places such as feeders or birdbaths,” a said Dr. Victoria Hall, executive director and veterinary epidemiologist at The Raptor. Center.

Hall said his recommendation was temporary until the spread of the virus slows. “We have in our power to take short-term measures so as not to accidentally help the spread of the virus. This outbreak won’t last forever and I, for one, can’t wait to be able to hang up my bird feeders safely! she wrote on Facebook.

For those who keep backyard flocks, including birds like chickens or turkeys, Roell suggested watching how you feed your birds.

“You would want to make sure your chickens are not associated with any wild birds. So if wild birds are able to feed from the same feeder or bucket as your domestic chickens, that would be something you would want to stop right now for the safety of your own birds,” Roell said.

More than 600 wild birds with bird flu have been detected in 31 states, according to the latest CDC data. Two cases have also been discovered in US zoos.

The problem is much more widespread with poultry – over 27 million birds have been affected so far. Some commercial flocks of up to 5 million chickens have been culled in an attempt to curb the spread of the highly contagious virus.

Although the virus poses a significant threat to birds, the CDC stresses that it currently poses little risk to the public. People who work with affected birds are at higher risk, as they are exposed to animal feces and saliva. Even when a human contracts the virus through close contact with an infected bird, person-to-person spread is “very rare,” according to the CDC.

You also shouldn’t worry about consuming poultry or eggs because of bird flu, says the CDC. Both must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, as always, to kill any bacteria or viruses, including this flu.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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