WICHITA COUNTY, Texas – A month after the avian flu was first detected in Texas in a commercial flock of pheasants, the state has its first confirmed case in a wild bird.
The National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed this week that a great horned owl at a rehabilitation facility in Wichita County tested positive for avian influenza, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
The highly pathogenic avian influenza has been detected in 38 states across the country.
“Symptoms include diarrhea, incoordination, lethargy, coughing and sneezing and sudden death, though birds infected with HPAI may not always have outward signs of infection,” TPWD officials said.
The virus is spread through contact with infected birds and contaminated equipment or the clothing and shoes of caretakers.
Wildlife officials are urging the public to avoid any unnecessary contact with wild birds to help slow the spread.
Health officials also say bird flu doesn’t represent a significant health risk to people, even though one human case of the disease was confirmed in Colorado last month. Officials say people are unlikely to catch the virus unless they have prolonged direct exposure to infected birds.
Tens of millions of chickens and turkeys in the U.S. have been slaughtered to limit the spread.
The Texas Department of State Health Services has guidance and resources for reporting and monitoring the illness including information for bird hunters and poultry workers.
On Thursday, the Abilene Zoo announced that its highest risk animals would be moved to their indoor habitats including flamingos, ducks, geese and others.
Last month, San Antonio Zoo officials said they were monitoring the situation and were prepared to move their birds indoors if they needed to.