The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources released an important update Wednesday that the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has been detected in New England.

HPAI has been detected in wild birds along the East Coast from Canada to Florida and may already be present in wild birds in Massachusetts.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the virus mainly occurs in birds, is highly contagious among birds, and can be deadly, especially in domestic poultry.

“Wild birds are natural hosts and reservoirs for all types of avian influenza viruses, and play a major role in the evolutions, maintenance, and spread of these viruses,” said the World Organisation For Animal Health (OIE).

Monitoring and controlling the virus at its poultry source are essential to decreasing the virus load.

And if the virus gets a chance to evolve, it can affect some humans.

“People who are in close contact with infected birds are at risk for acquiring avian influenza,” said OIE. “While many human cases are limited to conjunctivitis or mild respiratory disease, some viruses tend to cause severe illness.”

The good news is that the OIE found no evidence to suggest that the consumption of poultry or eggs could transmit the AI virus to humans. Transmission happens with direct contact with an infected bird.

The Town of Dartmouth Animal Control stated on Facebook that the HPAI surveillance of domestic and wild birds is ongoing, and any unexpected deaths or other signs should be reported immediately to the Division of Animal Health. Increased numbers of wild bird deaths should be reported to the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

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