10 New Cases of Avian Flu in Mammals Reported

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March 1, 2023 -- More animals have been detected with the H5N1 avian flu, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports.

The department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which maintains a list of detections of avian flu in mammals, has recently added 10 new cases from four states and including five species.

To date, 208 million birds worldwide have been affected by a massive outbreak of avian flu, which is spilling over to mammals.

Human infections have been rare and have occurred in people who had close contact with poultry, according to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. Of the handful of cases that have been reported, some were severe or fatal, with others thought to represent environmental contamination rather than true infections.

In Colorado, inspectors found the virus in three mountain lions, a bobcat, two red foxes, and a black bear. 

Elsewhere, striped skunks were detected in Kansas and Oregon. And North Carolina reported a black bear.

“There are many species that are potentially susceptible to HPAI. In addition to birds and poultry, H5N1 viruses have been detected in some mammals (see list below),” the government says. “Infection may cause illness, including severe disease and death in some cases.”

The government says 131 cases have been reported of known detections of the H5N1 avian flu in animals.

“Health officials are closely monitoring continuing reports of H5N1 spillovers to mammals, which have been reported from the Americas and Europe,” reported the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “The Eurasian H5N1 clade currently hitting birds and poultry in multiple world regions has a mutation that makes it more recognizable to mammal airway cells, including humans.”

The center says human infections have been rare and occurred in people who had close contact with poultry. “Of the handful of cases that have been reported, some were severe or fatal, with others thought to represent environmental contamination rather than true infections.”