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Bird flu reaches five counties in Utah

May 26, 2022, 4:00 PM
Group of pelicans on the water. Bird flu was found in pelicans....
Four American white pelicans forage in Utah Lake on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Photo credit: Scott G Winterton /Deseret News.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said that bird flu is spreading throughout the state. On Thursday it confirmed that dead birds in five counties have tested positive for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, referred to as bird flu.

Utah’s spread so far

The DWR said that 10 wild birds had tested positive for the avian flu as of May 26. Counties with infected birds include Salt Lake, Cache, Weber, Utah, Tooele, and Carbon counties.

Birds that tested positive include Canada geese and pelicans, which were some of the most recent birds confirmed to have died from the virus. 

Two pelicans were found May 12 and a Canada goose was found May 16, all on the shore of Scofield Reservoir in Carbon County. The DWR collected the birds and sent them first to the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Logan, then to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa for testing.

The Iowa laboratory confirmed the birds had the avian flu.

The water at Scofield Reservoir is treated. Because of that, the Department of Environmental Quality said the virus should not impact drinking water or recreational activities at Scofield.

Other birds that have died from the virus include great horned owls, hawks, turkey vultures, and ducks. The DWR said it was still waiting on test results from additional dead birds.

How its spread

Avian flu is very contagious in birds and can cause high mortality in domestic birds. The virus can potentially spread to wild birds. If it does, it typically affects waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, and scavengers.

According to the DWR, “The virus is spread among birds through nasal and oral discharge, as well as fecal droppings. It can be spread to backyard poultry and domestic birds through contaminated shoes or vehicles.”

The DWR said people should not worry about removing bird feeders –unless they also have domestic birds– because songbirds typically are not affected by the virus.

What to do if you find dead birds

“If anyone finds a group of five or more dead waterfowl or shorebirds or any individual dead scavengers or raptors, they should report it to the nearest DWR office and absolutely make sure not to touch the birds or pick them up,” DWR Veterinarian Ginger Stout said.

“Just report it to us, and we will come collect them for testing. We are continuing to monitor this virus in wild bird populations. It typically doesn’t have much of an impact on the overall populations of waterfowl, but it’s likely that we will have some die now that it’s been confirmed in wild birds in the state.”

To report symptoms of the bird flu in domestic birds visit the Utah Department of Agriculture’s website.

Bird flu and humans

As for humans, the DWR said “Although the current strain of the avian flu presents a low risk to people, it has been confirmed in at least one person in Colorado during this most recent outbreak.”

The CDC has information online about keeping safe from bird flu.

The DWR has additional information on the virus and the Utah outbreak on its website.

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Bird flu reaches five counties in Utah