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Avian flu suspected cause of death in six Canada geese in Silver Lake Park

Parks will remain open, but the city is encouraging proper precautions as testing of dead birds continues

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Canada geese in the South Fork of the Zumbro River near Mayo Civic Center on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in downtown Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

ROCHESTER – Six dead Canada geese found by a Rochester resident in Silver Lake Park are being tested for avian flu.

“It is rare to find a number of dead geese in the park with no apparent injuries,” Rochester Parks and Recreation Director Paul Widman said in a statement announcing the testing by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “We are taking precautions and working with county and state officials to be prepared for avian flu.”

The geese were found Sunday and Monday, and Widman said testing results are expected by Monday, if not sooner.

If the geese test positive for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, Rochester employees that potentially had contact with the infected birds will be monitored by the Minnesota Department of Health Zoonotic Disease Unit.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infections among people are rare, but the disease can spread when enough virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose or mouth, or is inhaled.

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The spread of bird flu viruses from one infected person to a close contact is rare, and when it has happened, it has not led to continued spread among people.

Widman said city parks will remain open, but users need to follow guidelines provided by Olmsted County Public Health.

“Keeping distance from wildlife is always recommended,” he said. “Since geese are currently in their nesting season, they tend to be a bit more aggressive than usual. Park participants are encouraged to stay away from geese and other waterfowl.”

When avian flu gets detected in Minnesota, a response zone is created around the infected premises to control movement and establish an area for testing and surveillance protocols to be carried out. The Minnesota Board of Animal Health will determine if other birds near the park are infected.

While people are not likely to get avian flu, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance to prevent exposure includes:

  • Avoid direct contact with wild birds and observe them only from a distance.
  • Avoid contact with poultry that appear ill or have died.
  • Avoid contact with surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from wild or domestic birds.
  • Wear gloves and wash your hands with soap and water if you must handle wild birds or sick or dead poultry.
  • Wear respiratory protection, such as a medical face mask when handling birds.
  • Change your clothing before contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds.

The city is also encouraging residents who raise chickens, ducks or other birds at risk of avian flu to follow guidelines provided by the Minnesota Department of Animal Health.

Related Topics: ROCHESTERSILVER LAKE
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