Migratory duck tests positive for bird flu in Fairbanks

A sample taken from a south migrating mallard duck in Fairbanks, has tested positive for bird flu. Avian influence is carried by wild birds, but the disease is far more deadly to domestic poultry.

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State Veterinarian Dr. Bob Gerlach said only low pathogen strains have been found in Alaska bird samples in the past. Dr. Gerlach said this month’s Alaska mallard sample is also the first from a wild bird to test positive in North America since 2014, and the strain is very similar to that one, which lead to 2015 poultry die off in the Midwest.

Common mallard duck (Wikimedia commons photo)
Common mallard duck (Wikimedia commons photo)

“The impact for folks up here in Alaska is just to watch their backyard for birds closely and if they have any problems, to go ahead and report them to our office or the USDA, or talk to their local veterinarian so we can do an investigation,” Gerlach said. “It’s going to be a bigger impact on the large poultry producers in the Lower 48 as these migratory birds start to head South.”

Dr. Gerlach stressed that no domestic birds have tested positive in Alaska so far, but farmers should take basic precautions to protect their flocks from interaction with wild species. Gerlach said humans and other animals are not at risk from the strain.

“It’s not known to cause severe illness in people,” Gerlach said. “But we do tell me if you’re going to be out hunting that you should use the common sanitary procedures when you’re cleaning your birds.”

With just one of numerous samples taken from migrating birds this month in Fairbanks testing positive for Avian Flu, Gerlach said it’s unclear how prevalent the strain is. The sampling is part of regular avian flu surveillance begun in Alaska following the first outbreak of the disease in Asia and Europe in 2005.