Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza has come to Teton County, Wyoming now. Last Wednesday, Teton Raptor Center admitted a great horned owl located in Jackson that was found exhibiting symptoms of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza.
Then Monday, it was confirmed via results from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Wildlife Health Laboratory that the owl tested positive for the disease. Since this rapidly spreading virus is categorized as a zoonotic disease, that means that it can be transmissible to pets and humans.
Consequently, Jackson Hole Veterinary Correspondent Dr. Stephanie Ninnemann advises, stay away from any domestic or native foul that may have been infected.
Ninnemann said, “The long and the short of it is, we should be keeping ourselves clean, we should be washing ourselves. Don’t be handling dead waterfowl or dead birds that you find around. Don’t dispose of them yourself. Go ahead and call Fish and Wildlife, and just stay out of the situation as much as you can – just like you would if you were seeing any other dead animal, just don’t handle it.”
In humans, typical symptoms such as fever, cough, and sore throat can be exhibited, but it is rarely fatal. Symptoms in birds include irregular spinning body movements, uncontrolled head rolling, and other abnormal neurological movements followed by sudden death. Unfortunately, there is no cure for birds.
Teton Raptor Center worked closely with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to collect oral and cloacal swabs from the owl for testing, and given the high transmissibility of the disease, the bird was humanely euthanized.