ANCHORAGE (KTUU) A strain of bird flu that was responsible for killing millions of birds has been found in Alaska for the first time. The virus is not considered dangerous to humans.
According to state officials, a mallard duck was collected by Alaska Department of Fish and Game staff along with nearly 180 other wild fowl. The mallard was the only bird that tested positive.
The strain of bird flu is Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N2 and is the same strain that caused an epidemic in 2014 and 2015 that killed millions of chickens and turkeys in the lower 48.
Alaska State Veterinarian Dr. Robert Gerlach says that poultry owners need to keep an eye on their flocks and prevent them from interacting with wild waterfowl. He says the symptoms can include “ruffled feathers, discharges from mouth and nose, and sudden death.”
Gerlach also says there have been no reported infections in humans from this strain of bird flu and it is, “not considered to be a human health threat or concern” at this time.
Gerlach says the bird flu is common in wild waterfowl but domesticate birds are “more vulnerable.” The Tanana Valley State Fair was going on near where the infected mallard was taken. Gerlach says he was at the fair testing birds and there were no positive results for the H5N2 virus. He says birds at the Alaska State Fair have also been tested and they have been all clear.
Since many waterfowl that could be susceptible to this virus migrate south for the winter, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is warning authorities in Canada, Mexico, and the lower 48 to be on the lookout.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is warning hunters to take normal recommended precautions when handling wild birds by keeping your hands and tools clean with soap and water and cook all birds to an internal temperature of 165°F before eating.