Bird flu outbreak 'very unlikely' to jump to people

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WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- The bird flu has jumped to humans before, killing at least 74 people in the early 2000s, is there any chance of a repeat in Wisconsin?

Keith Poulsen, director of the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, tells CBS 58 that is very unlikely to happen, but scientists are monitoring.

"it can jump species if it does change, and that's why we watch it very closely."

The highly contagious avian flu was found in a fourth Wisconsin flock over the weekend. Trying to stop the spread has led to millions of birds being killed in Wisconsin alone. A bald eagle was found in Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood that appeared to show signs of avian flu infection before it died. That bird is now being tested to confirm the presence of avian flu, with results expected in a few days.

Poulsen says that while this strain of bird flu will not infect humans, the current strain may mutate.

"Flus change just like Covid viruses change, there's new variants all the time," he said.

So poultry workers are taking precautions, as should anyone with a backyard flock, or anyone who encounters a bird. If you think you see a dead or infected bird, don't pick it up, pick up the phone instead.

"Don't change or mess with that animal, don't try to take it in and take care of it, call the DNR first," he said.

The Wisconsin DNR hotline to report a sick or dead bird is 608-267-0866.

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