First Minnesota wild bird tests positive for avian flu

The Department of Natural Resources confirmed a Yellow Medicine County Cooper's hawk as the first Minnesota wild bird to test positive for bird flu (HPAI) in an outbreak that has killed over 2.5 million birds in the nation's top poultry producing state.

A positive HPAI test from a dead raptor only means the bird was exposed, not that the virus killed it or that the bird spread HPAI to other birds, the DNR said. The agency has been conducting a surveillance of wild birds since March. Waterfowl are known to carry and potentially spread the virus but don't get sick or die. Birds of prey, like hawks, are thought to die from it once infected.

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"This bird tells us our surveillance is working, but it unfortunately doesn't provide many other clues about transmission of the virus," said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager.

Not necessarily connected to poultry infection

Cornicelli said the female hawk's infection doesn't mean the virus is a direct cause of Minnesota's domestic poultry infections. The DNR is not aware of any recent raptor die-offs.

Yellow Medicine County does not have any infected poultry farms, but nearby Lyon County does. Cooper's hawks likely get the virus from something they ate, Cornicelli said.

Hawk flew into home's deck and died

"A homeowner near St. Leo reported April 14 that the hawk flew into the home's deck and died. DNR wildlife staff collected the adult female hawk and sent it to the National Wildlife Health Center laboratory in Madison, Wis., for HPAI testing. The bird tested presumptive positive and was sent to the National Veterinary Service Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for confirmation of the H5N2 virus that is infecting poultry farms," a DNR news release said.

By the numbers

The DNR is collecting waterfowl fecal samples throughout Minnesota; asking turkey hunters from Kandiyohi, Pope, Meeker, Swift and Stearns counties to submit their harvested wild turkeys for testing; and collecting dead birds of various species reported by the public. They say wild turkey and raptor populations are still not at risk because they're so widely dispersed.

- 29 dead birds of varying species collected

-9 of the 29 tested negative for the virus

-20 results are pending

-37 samples from hunter-harvested wild turkeys are pending test results

-2,749 waterfowl fecal samples collected

-2,200 tested negative, rest are pending

-3,000 waterfowl fecal samples is the goal