As some of you have heard by now, Peace River Wildlife Center has confirmed the first case of HPAI (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza) on the west coast of Florida. This “bird flu” was found in the United States in January and was located in Florida last month. Here is a bit about what exactly this is and ways you can help prevent the spread.
What is it? – HPAI is something that the world has been experiencing for quite some time. This specific strain is the H5N1 Eurasian strain. To date, this strain is 100% fatal in birds that have become symptomatic. Though highly contagious, not all birds display symptoms or contract this virus; there is no treatment. The species we have seen this in so far are Lesser Scaups and Hooded Mergansers (see pictures below), both migratory ducks. Other species include birds that prey or scavenge on these ducks such as eagles, vultures, gulls, terns, and crow. This virus does have the potential to become zoonotic, meaning it could be spread by humans. So far there have been no human infections in the United States.
What are we doing? – To prevent the potential spread, PRWC has covered the rooftops of all of our enclosures. This will prevent foreign, potentially infected, droppings from entering our residents’ habitats. We are also practicing safe cleaning practices by disinfecting our footwear and cleaning tools prior to entering every habitat. Our pelican yard is completely shut down at this time. We will not have any public feeding and our resident pelicans will be confined to their enclosed habitat. Our educational ambassadors will not attend any off-site outreach events unless indoors and they will also not be visiting the boardwalk until further notice.
What we need from you? – PRWC DOES NOT take in ANY sick, injured or displaced wildlife at our education center at Ponce de Leon Park. Please under no circumstances bring an animal into that facility.
All of our patient care is administered at our Wildlife Hospital located at 223 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd in downtown Punta Gorda. DO NOT TOUCH ANY BIRD THAT IS SICK OR INJURED. Please call us at 941-637-3830 if you find an animal in need in the wild.
By taking these extreme safety measures, we hope to limit all chances that this virus could have of threatening our resident animals at PRWC. We are still open for tours at this time, but that could be subject to change in the future. Our primary focus is always taking care of our resident animals and the animals in the wild, we just want to be able to do both the right way. With you help we WILL get through this.