Home Uptick in reports of sick and dead birds in Virginia linked to avian flu
Health, Public Safety, Virginia

Uptick in reports of sick and dead birds in Virginia linked to avian flu

seagull on rock border
(© marguerite – stock.adobe.com)

The public is being asked to report sick or dead birds to help prevent the spread of avian flu.

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources recently has seen an uptick in reports of sick or dead birds in the eastern part of the state. Infected birds have been found in the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula and in Hampton Roads.

Numerous species of shorebirds and waterbirds have been reported, but grebes, sanderlings and gulls appear to be the most affected.

Preliminary testing indicates that the likely cause is H5N1, or highly pathogenic avian influenza.

“Domestic poultry is highly susceptible to the current H5N1 strain of avian flu,” said Tony Banks, senior assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Wild bird monitoring for avian influenza by USDA and state wildlife agencies provides an early warning system for the introduction and distribution of these viruses. This allows animal health officials and the poultry industry to take quick action to reduce the risk of disease spread to poultry farms.”

DWR is working closely with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Virginia Department of Health to ensure all Virginians and agricultural producers are aware of the increased detection of sick or dead wild birds, according to John Tracey, state wildlife veterinarian.

Waterfowl, and some shorebird and seabird species, often show minimal or no signs of illness when infected. However, these species still can transmit the virus to other birds that may get sick or die from the infection, including domestic poultry, raptors and upland birds.

During the spring months, Virginia experiences numerous species of birds traveling overhead as they migrate to northern states and Canada. This can increase the chances of HPAI being transmitted to local wild populations and commercial flocks.

When and how to notify DWR

  • Five or more dead vultures, waterfowl, shorebirds or seabirds found in the same area
  • Sick or dead eagles, hawks, owls or turkeys, excluding carcasses found on the road
  • Ten or more other wild bird species found dead in the same area

Notify DWR by calling the Virginia wildlife conflict helpline at (855) 571-9003, or email [email protected]

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.