The bald eagle, America’s national bird, is the latest to fall prey to the highly contagious bird flu that has been sweeping across the US, affecting birds in a majority of states.
The US is enduring the worst bird flu outbreak since 2015 in terms of domestic poultry deaths, according to new data from the US Department of Agriculture, with the avian sickness responsible for millions of deaths in commercial farms.
But the flu is also affecting wild birds and since February, at least 36 bald eagles have died in 14 states as a result of contracting the virus and eagles in two other states are suspected of falling sick with the strain.
Georgia’s department of natural resources announced that three bald eagles that have died in the state tested positive with bird flu and that other eagle carcasses are being checked. Other wild birds affected in the state include the lesser scaup, gadwall and the American wigeon.
The latest strain, H5N1, has also been detected in bald eagles in other states including Florida, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin.
According to the USDA, wild birds can be infected with bird flu and display no signs of illness. The birds can carry the disease to new areas when migrating and can expose domestic poultry to the virus.
USDA experts anticipate “new additional avian influenza detections will occur in additional states as wild bird surveillance continues in the spring”.
The threat of the bird flu to humans remains low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, the sweeping bird flu has been taking a toll on the poultry industry. Since 3 April, the outbreak has resulted in the culling of more than 23 million poultry, including chickens and turkeys.
When they come into contact with the feces of wild birds, they can contract the flu and begin to display symptoms and succumb at a high rate.
Poultry and egg prices have been rising across the country, according to the USDA.
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