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Avian flu detected in 3 red fox kits, Michigan DNR reports

Red fox kit
Posted at 12:36 PM, May 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-12 12:41:31-04

(WXYZ) — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced that highly pathogenic avian influenza has been confirmed in three red fox kits — reportedly the state’s first confirmation of the virus in wild mammals.

The fox kits, according to the Michigan DNR, were from dens in Lapeer, Macomb and St. Clair counties.

According to a press release from the DNR, the organization had received a report from a local wildlife rehabilitator about the fox kits showing signs of HPAI before death.

The kits were confirmed positive by the National Veterinary Services Lab in Iowa on May 11, according to the press release.

HPAI has previously been detected in birds throughout the country. Michigan reports that the virus has been confirmed in 69 wild birds. The DNR notes this is not the first time red foxes have contracted the virus, citing confirmations in other areas.

“HPAI H5N1 viruses may occasionally transmit from birds to mammals, as occurred in these cases, and there may be additional detections in other mammals during this outbreak, but they likely will be isolated cases,” said Megan Moriarty, the state wildlife veterinarian with the DNR, in a press release. “At this point, it is unclear how the fox kits became infected, but it’s possible that they were exposed by consuming infected birds, such as waterfowl.”

If you do notice unusual or unexplained deaths among wild birds or abnormal behavior in foxes, you’re asked to call the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory at 517-336-5030.

Domestic bird owners are also asked to watch for unusual deaths, a drop in egg production, major decrease in water consumption or an increase in sick birds.