Skip to main content

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Overview

Avian Influenza is a viral disease that affects all species of birds and can be classified into two categories. Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI) is commonly found in wild birds and domestic poultry and causes no or minimal signs of disease. The second category, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), is extremely infectious, not treatable and can cause high mortality rates in infected species. Some animals can be infected with HPAI without showing any signs or appearing sick.

Infected birds in some species may be asymptomatic while others may show clinical signs ranging from lethargy to severe neurologic signs such as circling, tremors, and seizures. Often birds are found dead with no signs of trauma or other causes.

Infected birds can shed HPAI through saliva, nasal secretions, and feces. Feces are an especially important mode of transmission in wild birds. Animals can become infected when they are around other HPAI infected animals or through contaminated surfaces.

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/avian-in-birds.htm

HPAI can infect wild birds like waterfowl (ducks, geese, swans, gulls, and terns), shorebirds (storks, plovers and sandpipers), raptors (eagles, hawks), scavengers (vultures, crows), and domestic poultry like chickens, turkeys, and ducks.

Songbirds are generally at lower risk for hosting avian influenza; however, it cannot be ruled out that a 'bird feeder species' could carry and/or transmit this pathogen.

Yes, it is possible but very rare. Keep pets (including pet birds) away from sick or dead wild birds as a standard precaution.

HPAI has only been detected in wild birds in Florida. However, we are working closely with our partners to stay informed if and when the virus is detected in domestic poultry or feral waterfowl (e.g., Muscovy ducks) in Florida.

https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-disease-information/avian/avian-influenza/2022-hpai

A map of counties with HPAI detected in wild birds, including a list of positive species, in Florida can be found at the top of this page.

HPAI was detected for the first time in Florida in January 2022 in a hunter-harvested blue-winged teal. Beginning in early February, a significant mortality event involving hundreds of lesser scaup as well as black vultures, bald eagles, and other species has been documented along the east coast and in Charlotte County. This same virus has also been detected in several states, all with different avian species, densities, and climates. As we gather more data and watch daily caseloads, we will get a better idea of the size and scope of these mortality events. These data will be heavily dependent upon our ability to receive accurate reports across the state and have personnel respond to those reports. Reporting observations of bird illness or mortality helps experts to stay informed of these events.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and other state and federal agencies are coordinating closely to monitor, investigate and document ongoing cases of HPAI in Florida. We are also committed to communicating frequently with the public, partners, wildlife rehabilitation centers and trappers to ensure everyone is practicing proper biosecurity to prevent the spread of HPAI.

Avian influenza outbreaks in wild birds have a complex history and consist of different subtypes. These influenza subtypes affect different species and vary over different regions. We know this strain has been in Europe for a year now and only recently in the past few months was detected in North America. This is the first known outbreak of HPAI in Florida.

The outbreak in Florida is believed to have followed the introduction of the virus last year from Europe into Canada. The virus then traveled with migratory waterfowl down the Atlantic Flyway to Florida and other states. A similar strain entered North America from the Pacific Flyway in 2014/2015 and caused limited mortalities in wild birds but caused outbreaks in some poultry facilities. The current outbreak of HPAI in wild birds in Florida is unprecedented.

Human Infections

There is a low risk of HPAI transmission to humans. In April 2022 the first U.S. case was reported in Colorado. We caution that you avoid contact with these birds and contact your public health department with any concerns of a potential infection or exposure.

Commercial/Backyard Flocks

No cases in commercial or backyard flocks have been detected at this time (3/10/2022)

Yes, HPAI can spread to domestic poultry facilities and backyard flocks, and this has occurred in other states. It is critically important that this does not occur in Florida, and we can prevent this by practicing good biosecurity. Do not let wild birds come into contact with domestic poultry and do not handle sick/dead wild birds. Do not keep bird feeders in the vicinity of domestic poultry.

Wildlife Rehabbers

FWC has provided recommendations to wildlife rehabbers, and we will continue to update them as we learn more. However, each rehabilitation facility must weigh the risks and evaluate their ability to mitigate risks. In areas with high numbers of HPAI cases many rehabbers have closed their doors temporarily to all bird species. Other rehabbers are accepting birds except for waterfowl/waterbirds, raptors, and scavengers that have unexplained illness or neurologic signs.

How You Can Help

Report what you are seeing.

This helps experts understand where outbreaks are in real-time and guides management efforts and response. FWC staff triage which wild bird die-offs will be investigated and which carcasses will be collected, examined, and tested for Avian Influenza, West Nile Virus, Exotic Newcastle’s Disease and/or other infectious agents of concern.

Biosecurity is a term used to describe the procedures and practices that are followed in order to contain or prevent the spread of influenza viruses. Avoid handling sick or dead birds. If you must handle them, wear disposable gloves when picking up a dead bird, place an inverted plastic bag over your hand to avoid direct contact with the bird.

Clean feeders and bird baths with a 10% bleach solution (one part bleach mixed with nine parts water), rinse with water and allow to air dry.

Avoid handling sick or dead birds. If you do handle them wear disposable gloves. If picking up a dead bird, place an inverted plastic bag over your hand to avoid direct contact with the bird.

https://www.audubon.org/news/three-easy-important-ways-keep-your-bird-feeder-disease-free