Avian influenza confirmed in 3 nestling cormorants in Scottsdale park

PHOENIX — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa has confirmed the detection of avian influenza in three nestling neotropical cormorants found by Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) personnel responding to a report of dead birds in Eldorado Park in Scottsdale.

Surveillance, sampling and testing efforts were conducted through AZGFD and the US Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) before being sent to NVSL, which confirmed the cases on June 7.

These are the first detections of avian influenza H5N1 in wild birds in Arizona. At this point there have been no confirmed cases in domestic poultry in the state.

This year, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 has been spreading across the United States. The first detection in domestic poultry occurred in February 2022 in Indiana. To date, more than 37 million birds have been depopulated due to the disease.

Generally, wild birds are resistant to HPAI. However, the Eurasian H5N1 strain currently circulating in North America is different and has caused the death of large numbers of wild birds. Bald eagles, great horned owls, Canada geese, black vultures, waterfowl, and raptors have been among the species affected.

Currently, the transmission risk of avian influenza from infected birds to people remains low, but people should take basic protective measures (i.e., wearing gloves, face masks and handwashing) if contact with wild birds or domestic poultry cannot be avoided.

AZGFD will be reaching out to falconers and wildlife rehabilitation facilities about the detection and will advise them of precautions that should be taken to prevent the spread of the disease.

Due to this detection and the continued spread of HPAI in the United States, the Arizona Game and Fish Department and Arizona Department of Agriculture suggest these guidelines:

Care of bird feeders in your yard

Good hygiene at feeders is always appropriate, however there is little evidence of songbird and other common backyard birds carrying avian influenza.
If you own chickens or other domestic birds, you might want to AVOID intentionally feeding wild birds or putting out feed for your flock that wild birds can readily access. These practices attract congregation of wild birds, which increases the risk of spreading HPAI to other wild birds and to domestic poultry. Many times these birds will not appear outwardly sick, but can still spread the disease.

Report sick and/or dead birds

If you observe wild birds (or wild birds in a rehabilitation facility) exhibiting symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, eye/nose discharge, lethargy, paralysis, or rapid decline and sudden death, contact the Arizona Game and Fish Department at 602-942-3000 OPTION 5 in order to report suspected disease.
For those who raise and keep poultry, if you notice a significant number of your domestic flock or feral poultry in your neighborhood with similar symptoms as above, please contact the State Veterinary Office at 602-542-4293 or reach out via email to: diseasereporting@azda.gov and npip@azda.gov.

Practice strict biosecurity

If you own or manage domestic poultry, please check out the following biosecurity resource “Defend the Flock” provided by the USDA:
https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-disease-information/avian/defend-the-flock-program. This information can offer tips to poultry owners to develop healthy habits in safe poultry keeping.