Avian Flu Suspected in Deaths of Geese at Rochester Park
Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - Test results are pending, but it's suspected the H5N1 bird flu was to blame for the deaths of a half dozen Canada geese at Rochester's Silver Lake Park.
A news release issued by the City of Rochester says personnel from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have removed the remains of the birds and they are being tested for the highly pathogenic avian influenza that has killed millions of birds in commercial flocks throughout the state over the past couple of months. If the test comes back positive, it would mark the first time the presence of infected birds as been confirmed in Olmsted County.
Rochester Parks and Recreation Director, Paul Widman said, “It is rare to find a number of dead geese in the park with no apparent injuries. We are taking precautions and working with county and state officials to be prepared for avian flu.”
According to the news release, if the deceased geese do test positive for H5N1, the city employees who potentially have contact with the birds will be monitored by the Minnesota Department of Health. Officials noted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has indicated infections among humans are rare, however, it can spread if enough of the virus enters a person's eyes, nose, or mouth. The CDC guidance also says it is possible for the infection to spread from person to person in close contact, but it is rare and has not led to continued spread among humans.
Rochester Parks and Recreation Director Paul Widman says city parks will remain open to the public but park users will need to follow Public Health guidelines, which always recommend keeping distance from wildlife. He says they are now strongly encouraged to stay away from geese and other waterfowl, noting geese are currently in their nesting season and "tend to be a bit more aggressive than usual."
If the highly pathogenic avian influenza is confirmed, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health will establish a response zone around the infected areas to control movement, and create space for testing and surveillance. The state agency will also determine if other birds in and near the park have been infected.