Over 500 birds have been found dead at the McNary National Wildlife Refuge near Burbank, WA because of a particularly virulent strain of Avian Cholera. More birds were continuing to be counted and collected when news broke, as workers keep track of just how successful this disease has been in spreading across the local bird population.
Cholera is often spread in the colder and wetter months of the year as birds often travel great distances and congregate together. That makes it easy for diseases to spread quickly in close proximity to additional hosts. Avian Cholera itself doesn’t spread to human hosts, though humans themselves must be careful in the disposal of bird carcasses to prevent contracting a different disease. So far, the majority of birds infected have been mallard ducks, with a handful of other species occasionally seen such as blue herons and northern harriers.
While the initial hot zone appears to be the Wildlife Refuge itself, some of the bird carcasses have been found on rivers and private properties. No other cases of Avian Cholera have been reported at additional sites, so it would appear as though the strain is local. The Federal Government is taking appropriate steps to prevent further outbreaks outside of the Wildlife Refuge. Federal workers have stopped setting up local feeding spots with corn. That will deter birds from gathering together at spots where they may be exposed to other birds with the bacteria.
While the disease is only expected to spread until the warmer months, the Avian Cholera is noted to be quite lethal to birds. Some are noted to have died as quickly as six hours after the initial infection. This bacteria is known to spread to other birds by way of carcasses, droppings, and contaminated food and water. Local residents are told to remove any dead birds found by placing it in a bag and pouring bleach on it to kill harmful bacteria before disposing of it. Stay up to date on the latest bird news at www.audubon.org.