Dead vultures in Charleston Co. test positive for avian flu, health officials say
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - State health officials are warning community members to avoid dead or sick wild vultures after dead vultures found in Charleston County tested positive for avian influenza.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control says they are aware of a “mass die-off” of wild vultures in the county. Some of those birds tested positive for the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) caused by the influenza virus subtypes, including H5N1.
West Ashley homeowner Dore Carlo said he found a few dead vultures behind his home on May 6. The following day, he went to another pond further behind his home and found dozens of carcasses.
“They hang out here. They breed out here,” Carlo said. “At any given time, there would be hundreds of them here. As you can see, there’s very few.”
Photos shared with Live 5 News from May 7 captured the dead vultures lying along the banks of the pond.
The homeowner said the pond where the birds were discovered is frequented by neighbors who walk their pets and children who fish.
Carlo said he received an email from his property manager and a phone call from DHEC on Tuesday confirming the birds had tested positive for avian flu.
He said the deaths have left neighbors worried.
“Everybody once they found out it was bird flu were very concerned,” Carlo said. “Again, we’re concerned that there’s other animals coming out here feasting on these dead vultures, and hopefully, it’s not spreading to anything else.”
The agency said while the risk to people, pets and tame animals is thought to be low, the risk is not well known and contact with dead or sick birds should be avoided.
Additionally, the agency recommends avoiding areas where the birds have been found as the virus can be spread through feathers and fecal matter or areas contaminated by infected birds.
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources encourages the public to report unusual bird deaths, which Carlo said was his goal.
“I’m just trying to get the word out to everybody to keep away from this area,” Carlo said. “Everybody’s concerned about getting rid of the dead vultures now, and most of all, just keep kids and pets away from the area.”
DHEC said anyone who comes in contact with a dead bird and develops symptoms of fevers, coughs, fatigue and body aches to seek medical attention and report the potential exposure to their health care provider and local health department.
DHEC recommends monitoring for symptoms for 10 days after known exposure to a bird with HPAI.
The homeowner’s association said they are working with DHEC on a way to handle and remove the dead vultures from area.
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