Bald eagle tests positive for bird flu in Pennsylvania

Bald eagle tests positive for bird flu in Pennsylvania

A wild bird has tested positive for avian influenza just north of the Lehigh Valley.

A bald eagle collected April 13 in Monroe County was confirmed to have H5N1 avian flu May 2, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection services. The results were submitted by the state Game Commission.

Further details on the raptor were not available, said Travis Lau, communications director for the state Game Commission. However, he said this is the third year in a row with detections in the commonwealth.

” … it’s still out there, still impacting the health of wild birds, still a threat to the health of domestic birds,” he said in a Tuesday email. “We encourage the public to continue to report suspected cases.”

There have so far this year been more than a dozen wild birds in Pennsylvania that have been confirmed to have the strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI. Only one was in the Lehigh Valley — a bald eagle collected March 11 in Northampton County.

Federal officials are keeping a keen eye on the avian flu as the virus sweeps across the country, leading to an outbreak in poultry and dairy cows. Although the threat to humans is low, local health officials said it’s important to keep a close watch on the situation before it turns into a pandemic.

Bird flu is caused by an influenza type A virus, is highly contagious and often fatal in birds. While some wild bird species can carry the virus without becoming sick, HPAI has been affecting both wild waterfowl as well as domestic poultry species since 2022.

The virus jumped from birds to mammals in the Valley last May, when a red fox became the first mammal in the Valley infected.

While bird flu viruses do not normally infect people, these have been cases reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Illnesses in humans from bird flu virus infections have ranged in severity from no symptoms or mild illness (e.g., eye infection, upper respiratory symptoms) to severe disease (e.g., pneumonia) that resulted in death,” according to the CDC’s website. “Human infections with bird flu viruses have most often occurred after close or lengthy unprotected contact (i.e., not wearing gloves or respiratory protection or eye protection) with infected birds or places that sick birds or their saliva, mucus and feces have touched.”

While bird flu is a nationwide issue, Pennsylvania’s first case in domestic poultry was recorded April 15, 2022. It was found in a flock of commercial layer chickens on a Lancaster County poultry farm.