Michigan fox kit deaths linked to avian influenza, officials say


Three fox kits have died from highly pathogenic avian influenza in three Metro Detroit counties, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources said Thursday.

The fox kits collected between April 1 and April 14 came from three dens in Lapeer, Macomb and St. Clair counties, and were the state’s first such confirmation of the HPAI virus in wild mammals, the department said in a statement.

“HPAI H5N1 viruses may occasionally transmit from birds to mammals, as occurred in these cases, and there may be additional detections in other mammals during this outbreak, but they likely will be isolated cases,” said Megan Moriarty, the state wildlife veterinarian with the DNR. “At this point, it is unclear how the fox kits became infected, but it’s possible that they were exposed by consuming infected birds, such as waterfowl.”

“The DNR had received a report from a wildlife rehabilitator in southeastern Michigan about the fox kits exhibiting neurologic signs of HPAI before death,” according to the release. “The kits were observed circling, tremoring and seizing. Two of the three died within hours of intake, while one appeared to respond to supportive therapy but then died in care.”

Highly pathogenic avian influenza is a virus known to affect birds throughout North America, with detections in backyard flocks and commercial poultry facilities in 34 states and detections in wild birds in 35 states, officials said.