Three wild foxes test positive for bird flu; DATCP says animals likely ate infected birds

MADISON, Wis. — As cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza continue to spread in Wisconsin, the state has confirmed three wild red fox kits have tested positive for the virus.

In a news release Friday afternoon, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection said it learned of the bird flu cases last week. The three foxes were from three different counties in the state.

The cases are the first to be confirmed in wild mammals in the state, DATCP said.

“We don’t have any evidence that foxes are a significant source of transmission for the virus,” Lindsey Long, a wildlife health veterinarian for the state’s Department of Natural Resources, said in the release. “The three foxes in these cases most likely contracted the H5N1 strain of HPAI after eating infected wild birds.”

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DATCP is urging people to avoid approaching wild animals that appear to be sick and to contact health officials or veterinarians if any of their pets or domestic animals show neurological symptoms. So far, no cases have been identified in domestic dogs or cats, the agency said.

The first confirmed bird flu case in the state since 2015 was reported at the Cold Spring Egg Farm in Jefferson County in mid-March. Cases have since been reported in birds in 10 additional counties.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services said there is “no imminent threat” to the state “since there is little evidence of sustained human-to-human spread of the bird flu in other parts of the world.”

Poultry is safe to eat if it is cooked to at least 165 degrees, DHS said.