(WTAJ)– Bird flu has been discovered in Pennsylvania marking the first time the avian influenza has been found in the commonwealth since it was found in North America in 2021.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus was found in a dead bald eagle located in Chester County. Along with the bald eagle, diagnostics are pending regarding five wild hooded mergansers recovered from Kahle Lake on the border of Clarion and Venango counties, according to a release from the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Four were found dead and the fifth was showing signs and was then euthanized.

Wild waterfowl and shorebirds are considered natural reservoirs for avian influenza viruses. While infected birds may shed the virus in their feces and saliva despite appearing healthy, HPAI can lead to sickness or death in wild poultry (turkey, grouse), raptors (hawks, eagles), avian scavengers (crows, gulls, ravens), and other species (ducks, geese). Clinical signs of infection in wild birds are often non-specific but may include neurologic dysfunction such as circling and difficulty flying. HPAI is particularly contagious and lethal to domestic poultry.

As of March 2022, the HPAI outbreak has been detected in over 20 states and has impacted domestic or wild birds across the eastern and midwestern United States.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission continues to work with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Wildlife Futures Program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, and the Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System to monitor for HPAI in wild and domestic bird populations throughout PA.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission offers these tips reduce the risk that you or other humans/animals under your care get sick from wildlife:

  • Always observe wildlife from a safe distance.
  • Avoid contacting surfaces that may be contaminated with feces from wild or domestic birds.
  • Do not handle wildlife unless you are hunting, trapping, or otherwise authorized to do so.
  • Those authorized to handle wildlife should always wear appropriate personal protective equipment and practice good hygiene such as hand washing.

Pennsylvanians can report any sick or dead wild birds, particularly the above-mentioned species, to the Game Commission at 610-926-3136 or pgc-wildlifehealth@pa.gov.