Michigan Battling West Nile Virus, Avian Flu and Chronic Wasting Disease
The Michigan DNR and others are working to stop the spread of all three.
In late May, the DNR announced confirmation of chronic wasting disease in a free-ranging deer in Ingham County. Less than two weeks later, avian influenza was detected in three Canada goslings in Macomb County. Most recently, West Nile virus has been found in crows in Ingham County. The Michigan DNR, Michigan departments of Agriculture and Rural Development and Health and Human Services, and others are working to control all three.
Chronic Wasting Disease
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. May 2015 marked the first time the disease had been found in a single free-ranging deer in Michigan. In 2008, a white-tailed deer from a privately owned facility in Kent County tested positive for CWD.
Since finding the disease in a free-ranging deer in May, 135 other deer within the CWD Management Zone have been tested for CWD. No new cases yet have been found, but thousands more will need to be tested before the severity and extent of the disease can accurately be determined.
The DNR continues to ask the public for help in reporting deer that are unusually thin or exhibiting unusual behavior. Report a possible case of CWD.
In early June, Michigan became the nation’s 21st state since 2014 to report a case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). In the other 20 states, HPAI has been found in captive or free-ranging wild birds, and/or backyard and commercial poultry flocks. Michigan became the sixth state to detect HPAI only in free-ranging birds.
Avian influenza is a virus that affects both free-ranging birds and domestic poultry such as chickens, turkeys, quail and geese. Avian influenza viruses are named based on how lethal they are to domestic chickens: highly pathogenic viruses cause widespread deaths, while low pathogenic viruses do not. Avian influenza has not yet been identified in Michigan’s domestic poultry flocks.
Since 2006, nearly 9,000 waterfowl in Michigan have been tested for avian influenza. Thus far, Michigan has a total of four free-ranging Canada goslings and one sub-adult goose – all from Macomb County – confirmed to have been infected with the HPAI H5N2 virus.
With recent avian flu findings, Steve Schmitt, veterinarian in charge of the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory, said the relocation of geese has been suspended for this year.
“Each summer, the DNR routinely relocates nuisance Canada geese in southeast Michigan to other parts of the state,” Schmitt explained. “Given these developments, the DNR has stopped all goose relocation activities, except in areas where there is a domestic poultry or public health concern.”
Schmitt said vigilant surveillance and containment continue to be the department’s top priorities including responding to reports of suspicious dead animals; testing ducks and geese during routine banding, as well as hunter-harvested waterfowl; and employing increased biosecurity measures for anyone who handles waterfowl.
If you see three or more sick or dead free-ranging waterfowl report it to the Michigan DNR at 517-336-5030. If a domestic flock is experiencing severe illness or multiple deaths, contact the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development at 800-292-3939.
West Nile Virus
Most recently, three American crows in Ingham County tested positive for West Nile virus – the state’s first report this year of the virus. West Nile virus is carried by birds, and has been known to be transmitted from bird to bird only by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on a bird carrying the virus. The infected mosquito then transmits the virus to another bird through a second bite.
Most birds are relatively resistant to West Nile virus, but serve as carriers of the virus. Susceptible bird species are crows, ravens, blue jays, hawks and owls.
So far in 2015, there have been no confirmed cases of humans being infected with West Nile virus.
To report birds suspected of being infected with West Nile virus, call the DNR Wildlife Disease Lab at 517-336-5030.