David Stallknecht

Highly contagious virus confirmed in three Georgia bald eagles

By Leigh Beeson

Highly pathogenic avian influenza was confirmed in three bald eagles in Georgia Thursday. This is the first time the virus has been confirmed in the species in the state.

The University of Georgia’s Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Diseases Study first detected the disease in the dead eagles found in Chatham, Glynn and Liberty counties in March. Based in UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine, the cooperative provides wildlife disease expertise to state and federal fish and wildlife agencies, including the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

“We don’t know what the future holds, but worst case scenario: The virus becomes established in our wild bird populations,” said David Stallknecht, director of the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study. “If it is maintained in wild birds, it will continue to threaten wild bird and commercial poultry health. With bird migration it may even spread to Central America and South America.”

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