Avian flu that has led to deaths of millions of domestic birds is killing wild geese in New Hampshire

Monitor staff
Published: 4/7/2022 3:47:51 PM
Modified: 4/7/2022 3:47:14 PM

The dangerous avian flu that has led to the deaths of millions of domestic poultry in this country is spreading among wild birds in New Hampshire, including scores of Canada geese that were found dead in Strafford County.

The presence of Eurasian H5 – a highly pathogenic avian influenza – was confirmed in the dead birds by the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory, the University of New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Lab and the USGS National Wildlife Health Center.

The disease was first confirmed here in February, when 46 mallards collected through routine surveillance of the wild population tested positive in Rockingham County as did three ducks in Grafton County.

This is the first time since 2016 that the Eurasian H5 virus has been found in the United States in wild birds. It has spread to 31 states since it was first detected in South Carolina in January 2022.

This type of HPAI is considered a low risk to humans. No human infections from Eurasian H5 viruses have occurred in the United States.

This virus is seen as a danger to the poultry industry and other domestic birds. More than 22 million birds have become sick and were later killed, according to a report released Monday from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Iowa has declared a state of emergency because so many egg-laying flocks have been hit.  Locally, the flu led to the death of a number of domestic turkeys at the Pumpkin Wall Farm in Derry last month.

Concern about its spread has led a number of zoos, including Franklin Park Zoo and Stoneham Zoo in Boston, to move all their birds indoors, where they won’t encounter wild birds.

USDA APHIS Veterinary and Wildlife Services recommends that hunters and others who handle birds take precautions to protect themselves and the domestic birds they may encounter from this virus, such as wearing gloves, washing tools and work surfaces with soap and water and then disinfecting them to avoid cross-contamination between wild birds and domestic ones.

The department also recommends taking in bird feeders to help prevent the spread of the virus, particularly if you have domestic poultry.

For information about Eurasian H5 and its impact on wild bird species in New Hampshire, contact the NH Fish and Game Department at 603-271-3421 or visit https://wildlife.state.nh.us/wildlife/avian-flu.html.

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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