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2 Salt Lake County foxes found dead with bird flu in unusual cross-species infection, officials say

25 wild birds in 6 Utah counties have been infected during this latest outbreak.

(Utah Division of Wildlife) A red fox as seen in this undated photo. Two red foxes found dead in Salt Lake County late last month had contracted bird flu.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources confirmed Thursday that bird flu had infected two red foxes who were found dead in Salt Lake County late last month.

The first animal was spotted in a homeowner’s yard in Murray on May 24, and the second two days later in Taylorsville, according to a press release. Both were dead at the time of discovery.

The cadavers were shipped to the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Logan, and testing at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the disease.

According to officials, this type of cross-species infection is uncommon.

“While it does occur, it’s not very common for wildlife species other than birds to catch highly pathogenic avian influenza,” said Ginger Stout, wildlife department veterinarian, in the release. “Some states have had a case or two in wild mammals, but it’s fairly rare, and it seems to affect younger animals more frequently when it does occur.”

The department currently believes the foxes either ate or otherwise had contact with birds that transmitted the disease.

The state’s first bird flu case during this outbreak was confirmed in Cache County last month. The virus has since infected 25 wild birds in Cache and five other Utah counties: Weber, Salt Lake, Utah, Tooele and Carbon. Birds included Canada geese, great horned owls, hawks, pelicans, turkey vultures and ducks.

In rare cases, bird flu can spread to humans, and symptoms include fever, cough, headache and shortness of breath, according to the Mayo Clinic website. While this strain is considered low risk to humans, one case in humans has been confirmed in Colorado.

For safety reasons, the Department of Wildlife suggests that residents regularly clean their bird feeders and baths and avoid physical contact with wild birds.

“If anyone finds a group of five or more dead waterfowl or shorebirds — or a single dead scavenger or raptor — they should report it to the nearest DWR office, taking great care not to touch or pick up the birds,” Stout said.

To report such findings, call 801-538-4700 and the Wildlife Department will ship and collect them for testing.

https://www.sltrib.com/news/2022/06/09/salt-lake-county-foxes/ 2 Salt Lake County foxes found dead with bird flu in unusual cross-species infection, officials say

Joel McCord

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