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First cases of avian flu confirmed in Michigan

Jun 8, 2015

Credit matthew_hull / morgueFile

A strain of bird flu that has devastated poultry farms across the Midwest has reached Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources confirmed the first cases of highly pathogenic avian flu H5N2 in the state. They were found in wild geese in Macomb County.

Surrounding states and Ontario have all seen cases already – so state wildlife officials say this wasn’t a surprise.

“This is the largest animal disease outbreak ever in the United States,” said James Averill, a state veterinarian with Michigan’s agriculture department. 

“We are now part of a national conversation as the 21st state to be dealing with this subtype of influenza in poultry in birds since December of 2014.”

The disease can affect both domestic and free-ranging poultry. Officials don’t expect large population die-offs in wild birds.

“The problem is when certain strains and subtypes get into domestic poultry, they can kill large numbers of birds,” said Steve Schmitt, a state wildlife veterinarian.

Schmitt says that’s why the state is focusing on preventing the spread of the disease to domestic poultry.

Federal officials say the strain of avian flu has killed about 50 million turkeys and chickens in 15 states.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk to people is low.