DNR: Fox kit tests positive for bird flu in Minnesota

Published 9:29 pm Thursday, May 12, 2022

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MINNEAPOLIS — A baby fox has tested positive for the bird flu in Minnesota, the first confirmed case in a wild mammal in the state, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

The kit found in Anoka County died, as did two red fox kits in Ontario, Canada who tested positive for the avian flu last week, the first reported cases in a wild mammal in North America, according to the DNR.

The University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory alerted the DNR, which monitors the health of the state’s wildlife. The National Veterinary Services Laboratory later confirmed the positive test earlier this week, state officials said.

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The DNR routinely responds to reports of sick wildlife and conducts testing for many wildlife diseases. It will now add avian influenza to the routine screening process when foxes with neurological symptoms are submitted to the Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

This year’s bird flu strain is more aggressive and has caused more deaths in domestic poultry and wild birds than the previous strain in 2015.

“Testing in Minnesota has confirmed HPAI in nearly 200 wild birds, including 19 species of birds, primarily waterfowl and raptors,” said Michelle Carstensen, the DNR’s wildlife health program supervisor.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health officials have said the risk to the public remains low.

“The best advice we have for Minnesotans is to avoid contact with wildlife that appear sick or injured and contact your health care provider if you are bitten or have other close contact with wildlife,” said Dr. Joni Scheftel, Minnesota Department of Health public health veterinarian.