Dead black vultures found near Conowingo Dam Avian influenza outbreak

Delaney O'Neil, Reporter

 The avian influenza, also called H5N1, is a strand of the influenza primarily affecting birds and poultry. This type of flu is most often contracted by sick birds, but can also be passed from person to person. 

     Mainly the virus is spreadable by airborne respiratory droplets, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms will seem like the common flu, with a cough, fever, sore throat, muscle aches, and a shortness of breath. Drugs such as Tamiflu and Relenza are prescribed within two days of the appearance of the virus. 

     Now, the avian flu is affecting over two thirds of states in the U.S. The virus has reached Washington state and Oregon poultry, having killed a total of 37.55 million poultry and there have been a significant number of Midwestern outbreaks involving backyard flocks, according to CIDRAP. 

     Current news confirms that there is one U.S. human outbreak in Colorado. This state prison inmate states that he developed a fatigue while slaughtering poultry at a commercial farm in Colorado which tested positive for the H5N1 outbreak. 

     The only other human case was reported in China when a 4-year-old boy developed a fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The boy reported having eaten chickens kept in his family’s backyard, according to CIDRAP. 

     Within Maryland, more than 100 dead black vultures were found near the Conowingo Dam in mid-April, according to The Baltimore Sun. This has caused the closing of several walking trails in the area while officials work to reduce the spread of the deadly virus. Similarly, the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore has opted to take many of its birds off exhibit to ensure that viewers do not come into contact with the birds or their droppings. 

     In previous years, the swine influenza involved pigs spreading the flu to humans. Biology teacher Mr. .Brady Green says, “when the swine flu occurred it was scary and I remember trying to find vaccines for my kids at the time.” In regards to the bird flu, “it is not super scary to me, but if a vaccine happens to be produced, I will definitely get it.”

     Green goes on to say, “most flus start with transmission from animals and then it spreads to human populations like crazy because it is so easily transmittable.”

     Various Maryland farms have also reported the virus within their poultry, with one case in Queen Anne’s County and the other in Cecil County. The Maryland Department of Agriculture suggests cooking meats and eggs to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit will kill the virus.

Black vultures seen near the entrance of the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway Trail, after multiple were found dead near the Conowingo Dam. The trail remains closed to reduce the outbreak. Photo Credits: The Baltimore Sun