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Avian Influenza Updates

As you may have read or heard about, the USDA has detected the H5N1 strain of Avian Influenza in flocks in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Thankfully, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recent detections of this strain of influenza in birds in Maine and several other states present a low risk to the public and no human cases have been documented. However, this is sadly another challenge that our wild birds face on top of habitat loss and toxins in the environment. As we are all connected, this virus in wild birds can impact domestic birds and agriculture, and vice versa.

We are grateful to our clinic team for doing a great job being in touch with larger centers across the Eastern Seaboard to review their protocols, along with speaking with wildlife veterinarians and our state biologists. Our biggest concerns are keeping our ambassadors and staff/volunteers safe, along with the public and of course our general population of patients. Thanks to our Isolation Room and ability to keep ambassadors separated from clinic spaces, we will not have to stop taking bird admissions completely, which would have been a reality just a year ago. However, we have updated our Admissions and Triage protocols along with considerations for offsite programming in accordance with CDC and USDA guidelines in order to be able to continue admitting birds at all. Please visit our Tips for Wildlife Rescue for links to detailed information about AI in our region, along with our Avian Influenza Triage Chart to understand our protocols in the event that you find a wild bird this spring. Here are some FAQ, and links to more resources below:

  • How is it spread? Avian influenza is spread by direct contact with infected waterfowl or other infected poultry, or through contact with surfaces that have been contaminated with the viruses such as clothing, towels, carriers, etc.

  • How can I protect my flock? The public can protect domestic birds by:

    • Separating your flock from disease sources including wildlife and wild birds.

    • Keeping your poultry area and equipment clean.

    • Separating new or returning birds from your flock for at least 30 days.

    • Don't share equipment between neighbors

  • Can humans catch it? Avian Influenza is a virus and it is possible for humans to contract, particularly as the strain mutates. The current strain being monitored is considered a low risk to the public. CFW is following USDA and CDC guidelines for interaction for wildlife are written to minimize risk of contracting or spreading AI

  • Are the ambassadors safe? Our ambassadors are susceptible to avian influenza, and we are taking great care to protect them. We are grateful to have separate buildings and enclosures as an option for care to minimize risk. We have developed strict protocols for suspect animals and separation of handling for clinic patients and ambassadors to keep everyone safe.

  • What is a "suspect animal"? USDA defines suspect species as waterfowl, geese, raptors, vultures, crows, ravens, gulls, shorebirds, wild turkey. Birds in these families displaying neurological signs without sign of trauma are considered a high risk for carrying AI.

  • Why might your staff tell me to leave an injured bird in the field and not rescue? Avian Influenza is being monitored by the USDA and also CDC for potential impacts on both agricultural and human health. Although these restrictions are not ideal, having these safety measures in place allows us to continue taking birds instead of shutting down completely

  • How long will this last? Current policies and restrictions are in place until state and federal agencies determine the risk of avian influenza is classified as low pathogenic influenza. The length of time is unknown, but we will continue to update our community via social media and our website as things change

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