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Avian flu confirmed in wild birds in Summit County

Canada geese avian flu
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Canada geese carcasses.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has now confirmed avian flu in wild birds in Summit County along with a dozen other counties across the state.

Summit County is in addition to the other counties confirming the virus starting in April 2022:

  • Cache
  • Carbon
  • Davis
  • Duchesne
  • Millard
  • Morgan
  • Salt Lake
  • Sanpete
  • Tooele 
  • Uintah
  • Utah
  • Weber

The DWR said the rate of positive highly pathogenic avian influenza detections decreased during the summer months but there was an increase in positive cases during the fall migration and winter months.

“The outbreak is still ongoing, so we are still advising anyone who finds a group of five or more dead waterfowl or shorebirds — or any individual dead scavengers or raptors — to report it to the nearest DWR office. Make sure you don’t touch the birds or pick them up,” DWR Veterinarian Ginger Stout said. “Report it to us, and we will come collect them for testing. We are continuing to monitor this virus in wild bird populations. This particular strain is affecting more wild birds and is more widespread than the last outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the U.S.”

Here is a breakdown of the most recently confirmed cases in new areas of Utah:

Uintah County

  • A red-tailed hawk was found in western Uintah County on Jan. 1.
  • Several other dead birds were also found in the county, and test results are currently pending.

Duchesne County

  • A Canada goose was found in a yard in Roosevelt on Jan. 3.
  • Six Canada geese and one duck were found near Roosevelt on Jan. 4. 
  • Another Canada goose was found in a yard in Roosevelt on Jan. 5.
  • A dead goose was found in Myton on Jan. 7. 
  • Several other dead birds were also found in the county, and test results are currently pending.

Summit County

  • A duck was found in Summit County on Sept. 29. 

Morgan County

  • A duck was found in Morgan City on Oct. 12.

As of Jan. 10, 2023, a total of 102 birds and three red foxes have tested positive for avian influenza in 13 counties, the DWR said. The birds infected with the virus in Utah include raptors and waterbirds, specifically Canada geese, great horned owls, hawks, pelicans, turkey vultures, grebes, gulls, ravens and ducks.

Avian flu viruses are very contagious among birds and can cause rapid and high mortality in domestic birds, such as chickens, turkeys and domestic ducks, according to the DWR. Typically, these viruses only occasionally kill wild birds but this strain is more pathogenic and has been killing more wild birds.

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 songbirds are not typically affected by avian flu, so people shouldn’t have to remove their bird feeders unless they also have backyard chickens or domestic ducks, which are susceptible to the virus.

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. Visit the CDC website for more information on keeping yourself safe.

For those hunting waterfowl, the DWR has some tips to keep everyone, including dogs, safe:

  • Do not harvest, handle or eat any animal that appears sick.
  • Field dress game animals in a well-ventilated area or outdoors.
  • Avoid direct contact with the intestines.  
  • Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves while handling and cleaning birds. Wash your hands with soap and water and thoroughly clean all knives, equipment and surfaces that come in contact with the birds. Disinfect using a 10% chlorine bleach solution.
  • Keep your game birds cool, clean and dry.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke while cleaning game or handling animals.
  • All game meat should be thoroughly cooked before eating (well-done or 165° F).
  • Dogs are susceptible to HPAI but don’t often show clinical signs. Though the risk of infection is low, visit the DWR website to identify the locations with active cases of avian flu in wild birds and avoid those areas when using retrievers. Consult your local veterinarian if your dog exhibits any respiratory symptoms. 
  • If you have domestic poultry, keep them separated from the wild bird carcasses you have harvested and do not handle poultry after handling wild birds.

For more information about the current avian flu outbreak in wild birds, visit the DWR website.
You can also view all the latest cases of avian flu in wild animals on the DWR website.
To report any symptoms of avian flu in domestic birds, contact the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

Ashton Edwards jumped at the chance to join the KPCW team as director of digital media in 2022. She has been telling stories for a living for about a decade with stints in Oklahoma City, Salt Lake City, St. Louis and now Park City.