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Three foxes in Michigan confirmed to have avian flu

By Simon Druker
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Three foxes in Michigan confirmed to have avian flu
Red foxes like these were discovered to have the high contagious avian influenza in Michigan -- the first mammals in the state to test positive for the virus. Photo by Ken Billington/Wikimedia Commons

May 12 (UPI) -- Three red fox kits found in April died from the highly-contagious avian flu, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources confirmed.

This is the state's first confirmation of the HPAI virus in wild mammals.

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The three juvenile foxes were collected between April 1 and 14 and came from three separate dens, one each in Lapeer, Macomb and St. Clair counties.

The department received a report from a wildlife rehabilitator about the fox kits exhibiting neurologic signs of HPAI before they were collected.

The animals were seen circling, tremoring and seizing. Two of them died within hours of being picked up. A third appeared to respond positively to treatment but later died.

An additional sibling of the Macomb County fox did survive, but developed blindness, making it unable to be released into the wild. The animal will be housed at a local nature center.

In mid-April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned the highly-contagious flu had spread to more than 30 states, but cautioned the risk to public health was low.

The virus has now spread to backyard flocks of birds and commercial poultry facilities, in 34 states and has been detected in wild birds in 35 states.

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In Michigan, the virus has been confirmed in 69 wild birds, with the outbreak continuing to spread.

In England, one human case was reported to the World Health Organization in January.

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