CARSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — A skunk recovered from Carson County is Texas’ first confirmed case of avian influenza in a mammal.
The National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) confirmed this week the presence of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in a striped skunk recovered from the north Texas county.
According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, HPAI is a highly contagious virus that transmits easily among wild and domestic birds and is detected in all U.S. states except Hawaii. The virus can spread directly between animals and indirectly through environmental contamination.
For mammals, current data shows transmission occurs primarily through the consumption of infected animal carcasses, though mammal-to-mammal transmission does not appear sustainable, TPWD said in a news release.
TPWD said other mammal species susceptible to HPAI include foxes, raccoons, bobcats, opossums, mountain lions and black bears.
Symptoms can include incoordination and stumbling, tremors, seizures, lack of fear of people, lethargy, coughing and sneezing, or sudden death.
Because of the ease of transmission, TPWD recommends that wildlife rehabilitators also remain cautious when intaking wild animals with clinical signs consistent with HPAI and consider quarantining animals to limit the potential for HPAI exposures to other animals within the facility.
The transmission risk of avian influenza from infected birds to people is low, but TPWD said the public should take basic protective measures, like wearing gloves, face masks, and handwashing, if contact with wild animals can’t be avoided.
Those who locate wild animals with signs consistent with HPAI should immediately contact their local TPWD wildlife biologist.