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Biologists say avian flu is likely causing dead birds to wash up along coastal Maine

Biden Bird Deaths
Robert F. Bukaty
FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2021, file photo a cormorant flies in looking for an available piling on which to land, in Portland, Maine.

State officials say they've been getting daily reports of dead birds washing up across coastal Maine, which they attribute to an outbreak of avian influenza.

Brad Allen, a wildlife biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said while waterfowl can become infected with avian flu, they aren't typically known to die from it. He suspects that many of the birds who've died recently have other risk factors.

"And I kind of liken it to a pre-existing condition in humans around COVID-19," Allen said. "The virus itself might not kill you, but if you have other issues going on, they might put you over the top."

Allen said the department is still waiting to get test results back from labs on recently collected samples of dead birds, but he said many show clear symptoms of avian influenza. And Allen said that if those birds don't come back positive for avian influenza, he's asking labs to test for other diseases, as well.

The department said that any sick or injured birds should be left alone, and that the state is working to remove them as quickly as possible.

The detection of avian influenza forced the state to quarantine and kill several backyard flocks in the early spring.

But Jim Britt, a spokesperson for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, said that his department hasn't received a confirmed case of avian influenza since early April.

With the virus still circulating, Britt said the agency is still advising bird owners to continue to keep their birds indoors and separate from wild birds to reduce any risk of exposure.

"The bright spot, right now, is that with warming temperatures, as we get into summer, the virus is likely to die off with warmer weather. And that's good news for everyone," Britt said.

But Britt says the department expects the avian flu to return in the fall, when migratory birds begin to fly south.