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First Wisconsin mammals - 3 baby foxes - found with dangerous bird flu

Bird flu.
Bird flu.(MGN)
Published: May. 13, 2022 at 2:18 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Three baby foxes in Wisconsin contracted the avian flu variant that has already led to the deaths of millions of birds across the state.

The Department of Natural Resources reported the discovery Friday, noting researchers had not found the strain making the jump to mammals in Wisconsin until now. Infected foxes have previously been found in Minnesota, Michigan, Canada, and Europe.

DNR Wildlife Veterinarian Lindsey Long indicated the wild red fox kits likely contracted the virus after eating infected birds. She added there is little evidence that foxes are a major contributor to the spread of the bird flu.

“We know that certain species of wild birds, such as waterfowl and some of our raptor species are most likely to be affected by this HPAI virus,” Long said.

The agency pointed out that this bird flu strain, H5N1, has not been found domestic dogs or cats. Officials do ask that anyone who sees their pet in contact with animals showing neurological symptoms to contact the health department or a veterinarian.

Among the neurologic symptoms in mammals are:

  • Pacing or walking in circles,
  • Unbalanced posture,
  • Displaying head and body tremors

DNR recommends people not to approach a wild mammal that appears to sick or injured.

Already millions of birds, a bulk of which were in Jefferson Co., have been killed as officials try to stem the virus’ spread. So far, the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has recorded cases in 11 counties across the state.

For now, the agency urges poultry owners to continue with strict biosecurity protocols and to keep their flocks indoors whenever possible.

On Tuesday, state officials banned taking any type of domestic bird to a live event in the Wisconsin as they step up safety measures designed to contain the highly pathogenic avian influenza. The order replaced and expanded upon the one handed down early last month that placed the restrictions only on poultry.

It will remain in effect until 30 days after the last recorded case of the virus in a domestic flock, officials indicated. The list of events covered by ban include, shows, exhibitions, and swap meets.

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