GOGEBIC AND ONTONAGON COUNTIES, Mich. (WJMN) – The first cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) have been confirmed in two birds in Gogebic and Ontonagon Counties, according to Western Upper Peninsula Health Department (WUPHD).

The cases were confirmed on June 10, 2022, in an eagle in Gogebic County and a white pelican in Ontonagon County. No human illness has been associated with the cases.

WUPHD says it is sharing this information to alert people who own or work with birds, including poultry, or hunt wild birds to the possibility of infection and the need to take recommended precautions. HPAI in birds is not a food safety concern if poultry and eggs are handled and cooked properly.

Both wild and domestic birds, including chickens, are susceptible to infection with avian influenza viruses. HPAI has been confirmed in 117 wild birds and mammals in Michigan thus far, and the outbreak continues to spread in North America.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the public health risk associated with this avian influenza detection remains low. HPAI spreads easily among birds, but can occasionally spread from birds to people.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) advises adhering to the following precautionary steps to help protect both animal and human health:

  • Prevent contact between domestic and wild birds by bringing them indoors or ensuring their outdoor area is fully enclosed.
  • Washing your hands before and after handling birds as well as when moving between different coops.
  • Disinfecting boots and other gear when moving between coops.
  • Not sharing equipment or other supplies between coops or other farms.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting equipment and other supplies between uses. If it cannot be disinfected, discard it.
  • Using well or municipal water as drinking water for birds.
  • Keeping poultry feed secure to ensure there is no contact between the feed/feed ingredients and wild birds or rodents.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is also recommending the temporary removal of bird feeders this year to help curtail the spread of HPAI in both wild and domestic birds. If you choose to continue using your bird feeders, you are asked to keep the following guidance in mind:

  • Thoroughly clean bird feeders with a diluted bleach solution (and rinse well) once per week. Regularly cleaning helps protect birds against other infections, including salmonella.
  • Clean up birdseed that has fallen below the feeders to discourage large numbers of birds and other wildlife from congregating in a concentrated area.
  • Don’t feed wild birds, especially waterfowl, near domestic flocks.

If you are exposed to an infected bird, you should watch for symptoms of influenza for 10 days after last contact with the bird. Similar to seasonal influenza illness in humans, avian influenza viruses can be treated using influenza antiviral drugs. These medications work better the sooner they are given. If you suspect you may be ill, you can contact WUPHD by calling (906) 482-7382.

For domestic birds, domestic bird owners and caretakers should watch for unusual deaths, a drop in egg production, a significant decrease in water consumption, or an increase in sick birds. If avian influenza is suspected in domestic birds, contact MDARD immediately at 800-292- 3939 (daytime) or 517-373-0440 (after-hours).

For wild birds, if you notice what appears to be unusual or unexplained deaths among wild bird populations, you can report these cases to the DNR by:

  • Using the DNR’s Eyes in the Field app. Choose the “Diseased Wildlife” option among the selections for “Observation Forms.”
  • Calling the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory at 517-336-5030.

You can follow the status of HPAI in Michigan here and find more information about WUPHD here.