First American Dolphin Diagnosed With Bird Flu

Dolphin underwater
Dolphin underwater | Image by Joanna McCarthy/Getty Images

A dolphin rescued in Florida was found to be the first reported cetacean in North America ever to be diagnosed with the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus.

Also known as HPAIV, the bird-flu-infected dolphin was found stuck in a Dixie County Canal on Florida’s western coast. Unfortunately, attempts to rescue the animal were unsuccessful. The dolphin was placed on ice and brought to the University of Florida, where a postmortem occurred.

During the procedure, scientists discovered the animal suffered from an inflamed brain and other health complications. After multiple tests, it was concluded that the dolphin contracted bird flu, though the source of the infection remains unknown.

Earlier this month, The Dallas Express reported that avian influenza was detected in milk sold at grocery stores in the U.S. Despite the scare, the Food and Drug Administration maintained that the country’s milk supply remains safe. While raw milk could be infected, pasteurization is believed to deactivate the virus.

In Texas, researchers continue to search for a vaccine for avian influenza, anticipating it could become more transmissible to humans. So far, only one person has been reported infected with the new bird flu, and the virus is not believed to be transmittable between people.

Bird flu continues to plague U.S. farmers. In early April, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ordered the culling of 1.6 million egg-laying hens at a ranch in Texas. The order came after an avian flu outbreak was discovered at the facility operated by Cal-Maine Foods.

“We still don’t know where the dolphin got the virus and more research needs to be done,” said Richard Webby, director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, in a statement, per Newsweek.

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