Avian influenza, sometimes called bird flu, is caused by viruses that can infect poultry and wild birds, especially waterfowl. The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) strain, H5N1, was detected in domestic poultry, wild birds and wild foxes in Minnesota during spring 2022.
The H5N1 strain poses an extremely low risk to people and there is no food safety concern. Any risk of infection would be limited to people in direct contact with affected birds. More information on human safety considerations is available through the Centers for Disease Control.
- Minnesota DNR, along with its partners, are continuing to monitor for HPAI in wild birds.
- The DNR remains committed to helping inform the larger issue through collaboration with the Board of Animal Health.
- The DNR will also continue to partner with USDA-Wildlife Services to participate in national surveillance programs, as funding allows.
- DNR is receiving and addressing sick and dead wild bird reports that are consistent with possible HPAI infections. Individuals can contact local DNR wildlife staff or the DNR information center at 888-646-6367 to report sick or dead birds. Reports of interest include:
- Cases where five or more dead wild birds of any kind found in one location during the same timeframe.
- Sick birds showing neurological signs or that die shortly after exhibiting these signs.
- Wild birds suspected of potentially carrying HPAI will be tested or sent to the National Wildlife Health Center or Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
- Check back for updates on our HPAI response.
- Signs and symptoms of HPAI
Individual birds may exhibit the following signs of illness:
- Inability to fly
- Drooping head
- Swimming in circles
- Trouble standing upright
- Loss of coordination
Other signs of HPAI include multiple dead birds in the same location and timeframe.
- Recommendations for hunters (USDA APHIS)
- 2022 avian influenza response for domestic poultry (Minnesota Board of Animal Health)
- 2022 detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza (USDA APHIS)
- Map of confirmed cases of HPAI in North America (2021/2022) (USGS National Wildlife Health Center)
- Protective actions for people (Centers for Disease Control)
- Avian influenza and bird feeders (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
Poultry that AI can infect include chickens, turkeys, captive pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, domestic geese and guinea fowl. Wild birds also are susceptible.
AI viruses are classified by their ability to produce symptoms in domestic chickens. This is called pathogenicity, which can be low or high.
Many types of low pathogenicity avian influenza viruses (LPAI) are found in waterfowl but they do not get sick from it; however, they can pass the virus along to domestic fowl and wild birds. Wild birds are typically not affected by LPAI strains.
LPAI viruses can infect domestic poultry but usually do not have severe effects. Birds affected may show little or no signs of illness.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) strains can cause sickness and death in some wild birds. In domestic and backyard poultry, HPAI strains can kill entire flocks.
Since late 2021, HPAI (H5N1) has been detected in numerous wild birds, domestic poultry and backyard flocks in the Atlantic, Mississippi and Pacific flyways of the United States.
In early May, Minnesota DNR received confirmation from the National Veterinary Services Laboratory of a HPAI-positive fox from Anoka County. This was one of the first recorded cases of HPAI detection in a wild mammal in the United States.
Towards the end of May, Minnesota DNR, amongst other partners, noticed a marked decline in reporting of sick or dead wild birds. Avian influenza viruses tend to degrade in warm, dry conditions associated with summer months. While there was a resurgence of the virus in domestic poultry during fall 2022, biologists did not detect significant impacts to wild birds in the fall and winter (2022-23) compared to spring 2022.
The 2015 HPAI, H5N2 virus strain that affected Minnesota was detected on the Pacific Coast in 2014 and did not have a significant impact on wild birds in Minnesota. The DNR and its partners conducted surveillance efforts in 2015 and only found one dead raptor that tested positive for the strain.
- Questions & answers
I’ve found a sick bird, what should I do?
Avoid handling the animal if possible. You can allow nature to take its course. While it is unfortunate, there are not any available treatments for avian influenza. Raptors, in particular, decline quickly after contracting this illness.
Do not attempt to care for the animal yourself. While the risk of contracting this strain is low for people, there still is a risk. Wildlife rehabilitators are trained on how to limit contact and preserve a wild animal's natural instincts while giving care. Trained rehabilitators are able to assess the animal's condition and take necessary steps to either keep and care for the animal or humanely euthanize it if necessary.
You can find a list of local wildlife rehabilitators on DNR's website.
What can I do with dead birds I suspect died of avian influenza?
If you've found multiple dead birds (five or more of any species) in one place at one time, report the finding to the Minnesota DNR at 888-646-6367. DNR biologists may be interested in recording the possible case to track the virus.
If the biologists do not need the birds for sampling and you need to move them, wear disposable gloves, double bag the birds and place them in the trash. This will ensure other animals are unable to get to the carcasses and potentially become infected themselves.
Will avian influenza affect turkey hunting? Will I be at risk turkey hunting?
This strain of avian influenza (bird flu) poses an extremely low risk to people and no food safety concern. During the 2015 avian influenza outbreak, DNR staff did sample hunter-harvested wild turkeys to investigate whether avian influenza was impacting these wild birds in counties where the virus had killed domestic turkeys. All wild turkeys sampled tested negative for avian influenza. In the 2022 outbreak, DNR staff tested a few sick turkeys reported, but all tested negative for avian influenza. This current strain (H5N1) impacted waterfowl and domestic poultry more severely than other species. However, the USDA does have guidelines for hunters if you wish to take precautions.
Should I take down my bird feeders?
National data on avian influenza in wild birds does not suggest songbirds (passerines) play a significant role in avian influenza outbreaks. If you wish to take your feeders down as a precaution, you are encouraged to do so. Bird feeders only provide a supplemental source of food to birds, especially during the spring and summer.
Whether you choose to take your feeders down or leave them up, we do encourage you to clean your bird feeders regularly as this helps protect birds against other infections such as salmonella.
Review our best practices for cleaning bird feeders. Individuals who own chickens or other domestic fowl may need to take additional precautions. See the Minnesota Board of Animal Health’s recommendations for biosecurity.
Is my dog or cat at risk of contracting avian influenza?
Few cases of this virus in dogs or cats have been identified. Avian influenza primarily affects birds - there are far fewer documented cases of mammals contracting this virus. While the risk is low, there are precautions pet owners can take to protect their dogs and cats from avian influenza:
- Avoid feeding pets raw meat from game birds or poultry
- Keep pets away from wild birds that appear sick or are found dead of unknown causes
- Contact your veterinarian if your pet displays signs of illness
For hunting dogs, we recommend not allowing dogs to retrieve or come into contact with birds that appear sick. Hunters should avoid feeding their dogs raw meat from harvested birds during times when outbreaks are occurring. We also recommend keeping them away from field dressed carcasses or entrails.
I own chickens (or other fowl) - how can I protect my birds from getting avian influenza or potentially spreading it to wild birds?
Good biosecurity is essential for both commercial poultry facilities and backyard poultry owners to protect their birds from HPAI. Biosecurity is the way flocks are managed and the various practices put in place to isolate flocks from outside sources of infection. The Board of Animal Health has biosecurity recommendations available for individuals who own backyard chickens and other fowl.