WASHINGTON — In the first known instance of avian flu in the nation's capital this year, several mallard ducklings were discovered to be infected with the virus that causes highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), the National Parks Service said Wednesday.
The virus was detected in mallard ducklings at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.
Bird flu previously has been detected in domestic and wild birds in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. The most recent version of the virus is considered to pose a low risk to the general public, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In fact, there is only one documented human case of the currently circulating version of HPAI in the United States. NPS advises visitors to be cautious, however, and avoid handling live or dead birds or coming into contact with bird droppings as the virus can be easily moved around on shoes.
Visitors should minimize contact with waterfowl feces and should clean and disinfect their shoes before entering areas with domestic poultry or pet birds. Pets should be kept leashed and not allowed to interact with live or dead birds or other wildlife. NPS visitors can assist by reporting observations of sick and dead birds, or other ill wildlife, to park staff.
HPAI is spread through respiratory and fecal secretions, contact with contaminated environments, or direct bird-to-bird interactions, particularly among waterfowl like ducks and geese. The virus is highly contagious among some wild birds and can be deadly for some avian species, such as bald eagles or vultures.
Mallards are less likely than many other waterfowl species to show signs of disease and can be infected without appearing sick. The term “highly pathogenic” refers to the significant illness and mortality in poultry and other domestic birds that results from infection with this virus.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has numerous online resources about HPAI, including actions on how to keep poultry and pet birds safe, advice on what to do if you find a dead wild bird, and national reporting on HPAI virus detections in poultry and wild birds. Additionally, the National Wildlife Health Center maintains a map that portrays the locations of HPAI virus detections across the United States and Canada.