AURORA | Staff from Arapahoe County Animal Services say there has been a spike in avian flu in the region and is warning residents to take extra precautions when encountering a dead or downed bird.
Birds infected with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza may look disoriented, shake their heads or stare at the sky. While mostly detected in waterfowl, birds of prey can also contract the illness. Arapahoe County said a distressed owl was reported last week with symptoms of the flu. Red tail hawks have also tested positive in Arapahoe County.
The Colorado Department of Agriculture reported this week that there are nine avian flu-affected counties in the state. More than 6.2 million commercial chickens have been infected. The state also reports an additional 929 backyard poultry and nearly 12,000 game birds have been affected by the flu.
Since late November, more than 2,000 snow geese near Brush and Fort Morgan have died due to an outbreak of the flu, prompting the state and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to caution hunters in an attempt to minimize risk of human infection. Health officials warn against handling or eating sick game and encourage preparing game outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.
The agencies say hunters should monitor their health for flu-like symptoms within a week of handling birds.
Arapahoe County Animal Services say people shouldn’t touch a downed or deceased bird. Instead, leave it alone and call the agency. People who think they’ve been exposed to an ill bird should contact the county public health department.
Animal services can be reached at 720-874-6750 ex. 4. Public health can be reached at 303-795-4584.