Wisconsin DNR: Avian flu confirmed in wild red foxes

MADISON (WKBT) — Red foxes have tested positive for the highly pathogenic avian flu, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The flu, also called HPAI, is wreaking havoc across both wild and domestic bird populations in the US. Most recently, Wisconsin banned movement of domestic birds to help stop the spread. However, these cases discovered in three red fox kits are the first found in wild Wisconsin mammals.

The kits were from three different counties and showed advanced neurological symptoms after being brought to Dane County Humane Society’s Wildlife Center. Testing by the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostics Laboratory confirmed that HPAI was present in all three animals, though the DNR says mammals are not likely a threat to mitigation efforts yet.

“We don’t have any evidence that foxes are a significant source of transmission for the virus,” said Lindsey Long, DNR Wildlife Health veterinarian. “The three foxes in these cases most likely contracted the H5N1 strain of HPAI after eating infected wild birds.”

Neurologic symptoms in mammals can signify many different conditions, including exposure to environmental contaminants, parasitic infections and diseases such as canine distemper and rabies, according to the DNR. No cases of the H5N1 avian influenza strain have been identified in domestic dogs or cats.

If you or a domestic animal has contact with a mammal showing neurological symptoms, consult your local health department or health-care provideror your veterinarian for your pet.

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