The bird flu has now been detected infecting mammals.

The United States Department of Agriculture released a report on January 24 documenting different mammals across the nation in 2022-23.

This report detailed multiple contractions of the virus in animals such as raccoons, grizzly bears, skunks, opossums, and foxes.

Avian influenza or bird flu is a viral disease in poultry and other birds by infection with avian influenza A viruses.  While human contraction of the disease is rare, infection is possible through the mouth, eyes, or nose if a person has prolonged and unprotected contact with an infected bird.

Most of these contractions were observed in the northernmost section of the United States, including New York, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Nebraska, and others.

So far, no cases of the virus in mammals in the southern United States have been discovered.

Because this virus has jumped to a different type of animal, some scientists believe that humans will now be more easily susceptible to infection as well.

“If this virus has mammalian adaption and can transmit between mammals, humans are immunologically naive … and humans are mammals,” said Jürgen Richt, professor, and director of the Center on Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at Kansas State University, according to USA Today.

The CDC on the matter of bird flu reported that “influenza A viruses that infect one animal species may sometimes cross over and cause illness in another species, including people.”

The agency reported that these viruses have passed sporadically from poultry to humans in the past and resulted in illness and even death.  Moreover, the agency made it clear that it is possible for the virus to adapt into a form that is highly infectious and can be spread from human to human.

The CDC has recorded that only four people in the United States have ever contracted the disease.

Despite these warnings, the agency maintains that public health risk is low.

“Right now, the H5N1 bird flu situation remains primarily an animal health issue,” said the organization on January 27.  “However, CDC is watching this situation closely and taking routine preparedness and prevention measures in case this virus changes to pose a greater human health risk,” it continued.