Mallard ducklings at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C., have tested positive for a flu virus that mainly affects wild and domestic birds, but officials are warning visitors to steer clear of the birds and their droppings.
It's the first confirmation of the highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI, in the nation's capital, the National Park Service said in a release on Wednesday. The virus has previously been detected in domestic and wild birds in the nearby states of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.
The strain of HPAI virus that is currently circulating poses a low risk to the public, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
To date, there's only been one documented human case of the currently circulating HPAI in the U.S., according to the NPS.
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But park officials said visitors should avoid handling live or dead birds or coming into contact with their droppings.
The virus can easily move around on shoes, and visitors should clean and disinfect their shoes before entering other areas with domestic poultry or pet birds, the NPS advised. Pets should also be kept on leashes and not allowed to interact with live or dead birds or other wildlife.
HPAI is spread through respiratory and fecal secretions, contact with contaminated environments, or direct bird to bird interactions, particularly among waterfowl like ducks and geese, the NPS said.
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The virus is highly contagious among some wild birds and can be deadly for some avian species, such as bald eagles or vultures. Mallards are less likely than many other waterfowl species to show signs of disease and can be infected without appearing sick.