Observation by J. Saclaman and J. Garcia-Montes, with help from Gay Sheffield:
This video was shot in the vicinity of mile 16 on the Nome-Council Road. The brant was observed displaying an unusual spinning behavior, associated with the ongoing HPAI outbreak.
Comment by Gay Sheffield:
For the last several days, we have been receiving reports of primarily brant exhibiting neurological symptoms which are associated with HPAI. Locations include: Golovin Bay/Lagoon and Safety Sound. The Bering Strait region should report information ASAP on any other sightings (species/location/date/numbers) of wild birds or any other animals exhibiting symptoms associated with HPAI. Regional communities currently have food security / human health / wildlife health concerns about the spread of HPAI into the region, the spillover of the bird flu into foxes, and concern for subsistence activities/foods. Please see the Bering Strait regional updated flyer attached. You can phone in reports to USFWS Avian Influenza hotline 1-866-527-3358 and UAF Alaska Sea Grant: 907-434-1149.
LEO Editor Comment:
LEO Network has been monitoring the outbreak of HPAI across Alaska and the continent through observations like this one, taking the opportunity to raise awareness and connect with agency partners in a collaborative One Health approach. We want to thank all of the observers and advisors that have contributed to reporting observations of sick birds over the past weeks. Your contributions are critical in helping to monitor the developments of this outbreak and to raise awareness about HPAI. So far we have received six first person observations from LEO members about unusual bird behavior (lack of coordination, spinning or paralysis) covering a geographic range from the the Yukon / Kuskokwim Delta up to Norton Sound. There is a wide range of species showing possible symptoms; see in particular the posts from the YK Delta and others from the Norton Sound Region attached. We have no count for the number of birds that have been observed with symptoms, but hope to have a better idea of the numbers, species and geographic footprint of this event in the coming days. There is also evidence now in Alaska of the virus crossing from birds to land mammals, in particular red fox. In the past week confirmed cases in wild birds have also been reported in the Yukon Territory and as far away as Norway. Here in Alaska the number of birds that can be recovered for testing is relatively few, but more are on the way. These must be sent out of state for analysis, and the que is long as there are outbreaks occurring in wild birds and poultry across the continent. The results from this testing (the laboratory confirmed cases) are summarized below by Andy Ramey. Avian influenza (flu) is very serious for birds, and as we now know, serious for foxes as well. HPAI is however, thought to be but very low risk for people. The USFWS, State of Alaska, and the Alaska Migratory Bird Co-Management Council recently put out a fact sheet (attached) which provides the following advice for bird hunters and gathers:
Do not harvest game that appears sick or are found dead.
Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves when handling and cleaning game.
When done handling game, wash hands thoroughly with soap and disinfectant, disinfect knives, equipment and surfaces that were in contact with game.
Do not eat, drink or smoke when handling game.
Cook game (and eggs) thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165 degrees (F).
Note: dogs are at low risk for avian flu, but it is advisable to prevent them from eating sick or dead birds.
This observation has been shared with local, state, and federal health and wildlife agencies. Mike Brubaker
Comment by Andy Ramey, USGS:
Highly pathogenic avian influenza is a specific type of ‘bird flu’ that may cause severe disease or death among infected wild and domestic birds. North America is experiencing a geographically widespread outbreak of highly pathogenic avian in both wild and domestic birds. As of 5 June 2022, there have been 27 confirmed detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Alaska reported by the Office of the State Veterinarian as part of the ongoing outbreak, most of which have been identified in wild Canada geese or bald eagles. Characteristic signs of highly pathogenic avian influenza in these species have been lack of coordination and death. I strongly encourage anyone witnessing abnormal bird behavior, such as walking or swimming in circles, head shaking, or paralysis to submit their observations with detailed location information to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Alaska Sick/Dead Bird Hotline (1-866-527-3358). Follow up investigation and diagnostic testing are important for confirming or ruling out of infection of birds with highly pathogenic avian influenza. Guidance on best practices for the handling and preparation of hunter-harvested wild birds can be found on websites maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Additional information on how the current outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza pertains to human health and safety is available from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.
Comments by Angela Matz, USFWS:
The Alaska Sick/Dead Bird Hotline is receiving calls from people throughout the State - from Southeast to the far north. If you call, please give as much detail as possible about your observation, such as latitude, longitude, and specific location description; behavioral observations of the bird(s) or a positive confirmation of mortality; the species or type of bird; and the time and date of your observations. The person who answers the phone will ask you other questions to get a better idea of what you saw. Please note that the response is determined on a case-by-case basis, and may not include collection of all sick or dead birds reported. If we cannot collect the birds, we will work with the caller to determine a path forward. Some of the criteria that will guide the response are bird species, number of individuals, time since the observation was made, current condition of the carcass(es), and location. Please understand that resource agency personnel may be unable to respond to some reports from remote areas before sick or dead birds are scavenged. Please send your bird reports to the Alaska Sick/Dead Bird Hotline (1-866-527-3358).