H5N1 avian flu strikes condors in Arizona; more detections reported in pet cats


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The National Park Service (NPS) reported that tests have confirmed H5N1 avian flu in endangered condors in the Arizona-Utah flock, with deaths reported and sick birds collected for care and monitoring.

In an April 7 statement, the NPS said the virus has been linked to three deaths so far. On March 9, the Peregrine Fund, which manages the Arizona-Utah condor flock, observed a bird showing signs of illness, which was first thought to be lead poisoning. Crews saw other birds showing similar behavior, and on March 20 collected a dead female below her nest. Tests on necropsy samples were confirmed as positive for H5N1.

So far, the virus has been confirmed in three condors found dead. Five more showing signs of illness were sent to Liberty Wildlife in Phoenix, and one died shortly after arrival. The others have been quarantined during their care.

Efforts are underway with multiple veterinary and wildlife partners to coordinate ways to protect the condor population. The NPS warned that the flock's risk of exposure to H5N1 is expected to rise as the spring migration continues and birds fly north to their breeding grounds.

The NPS said avian flu is highly contagious in wildlife and can spread through multiple routes, including bird-to-bird contact, environmental contamination with fecal matter, and exposure to contaminated shoes, clothes, and vehicles.

It also urged people to report birds showing signs of illness to the Peregrine Fund. The symptoms include lethargy, incoordination, presenting as dull or unresponsive, holding head in an unusual position, and walking in circles.

More H5N1 reported in domestic cats

Following the recent announcement of avian influenza in a Wyoming barn cat, more reports are surfacing on the virus in domestic cats. A University of Nebraska veterinarian posted a case report on two infected cats from the same household that were sick in January and died from their infections.

The first was a domestic longhair cat that suffered multiple symptoms, some neurological, and was brought to the university for postmortem examination, which was consistent with acute infection. Testing at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory was positive for H5N1.

Three of the other household's cats were at risk, and one developed clinical signs and died, with testing at the NVSL also confirming H5N1.

Sarah Stillman, DVM, PhD, who posted the case report, said the cats were probably exposed to the virus while hunting wild birds.

Also, BNO News reported two similar cases from Oregon over the past few months, both cats from a household in Linn County near where poultry had tested positive for H5N1. In late December, French officials reported an H5N1 infection in a cat that lived on a poultry farm in Deux-Severes department in the west of the country, according to a notification from the World Organization for Animal Health.

H5N1 turns up in Gambian wild birds

Gambian officials have detected H5N1 at a wild bird preserve about 12 miles from the country's capital city of Banjul, according to Reuters, which based its report on a agriculture ministry statement. Neighboring Senegal recently reported the virus in wild birds, which was quickly followed by an outbreak in poultry.

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