Bird flu detected in Utah foxes, the first case of mammals in the state

Picture of a red fox in Utah. Utah’s Department of Wildlife said a pair of red foxes found in Salt Lake County late last month tested positive for bird flu. (Utah Department of Wildlife Resources)

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SALT LAKE CITY – Although this is rare, state wildlife officials warn that bird flu in the country could infect mammals.

According to the Utah Department of Wildlife, a pair of red foxes found dead in Salt Lake County last month tested positive for the flu, marking the first case of mammals in the state.

“Nevertheless, the spread of pathogenic avian influenza in wild animals other than birds is rare,” the department’s veterinarian, Jinger Stout, said in a statement Thursday. “In some states, there have been one or two cases of wild mammals, but these are very rare and have a greater impact on young animals when they occur.”

The findings came after Utah wildlife biologists responded on May 24 and May 26 to reports of red foxes dying in the backyards of homes in Murray and Taylorsville. Both bodies were sent to the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and then to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory. Ames, Iowa, where they tested positive for rabies and positive for bird flu.

No dead birds were found near the area where the foxes were found, but state wildlife officials believe the foxes were in contact with a sick wild bird or someone and as a result had their cases.

Avian influenza is “highly contagious” among birds, resulting in higher mortality of poultry, such as chickens, ducks, and turkeys. According to the Utah Department of Wildlife, it also affects waterfowl, coastal birds, predators and predators, owls, ravens and crows. It is usually spread through nasal and oral discharge or feces.

Singing birds are generally unaffected, so Division officials say Utah’s birds do not need to be removed if they do not have susceptible birds.

This type of bird flu, which was detected in South Carolina in January, was first detected in Utah chickens in April. State wildlife officials said last month that the state had its first case of wild birds. The department has now found the virus in 25 wild birds in Cash, Carbon, Salt Lake, Tuele, Utah and Weber counties.

The virus is found in more than half of the U.S. states in the wild, but Utah is the most confirmed southwestern state. As of Thursday, wild birds in Arizona, California, Nevada or New Mexico did not give it a positive assessment.

At least another 38 million birds have been affected, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Two weeks ago, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak approved a $ 400 million transfer by the Commodity Credit Corporation to the department’s Animal and Plant Health Service to be used to fight bird flu. Influenza is one of the reasons for the rise in prices for poultry products, including eggs.

However, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus has only been detected in one person since the outbreak began.

Stout urges Utah to continue reporting all dead waste or wildlife to the Utah Department of Wildlife, as well as groups of at least five dead swimmers or coastal birds.

“Tell us about it and we’ll collect them for inspection,” he said. “We continue to monitor the virus in wild bird populations. It usually has little effect on the general population of aquatic birds, but we can die in the state because it has been confirmed in the wild.”

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, billboards, history and sports for He previously worked for Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant by way of Rochester, New York.

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