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Avian flu confirmed in dead Silver Lake Park geese

Olmsted County joins 59 other Minnesota counties with confirmed cases in wildlife or commercial poultry.

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Geese look for food on the sidewalk near Silver Lake in Rochester.
Post Bulletin file photo
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ROCHESTER — Avian flu has been confirmed in several dead geese found in Silver Lake Park.

The first six dead birds reported on April 24 tested positive for avian flu, according to Rochester Parks and Rec director Paul Widman.

More on avian flu:
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More than 650,000 birds over 18 sites have been depopulated in Minnesota due to an early autumn surge in highly pathogenic avian influenza.

The cases are the first reported in Olmsted County.

Three other dead geese were founds in the park days after the initial discovery, but none have been reported in other city parks or parts of the city.

“DNR will not be doing any further testing now that avian flu has been confirmed,” Widman said.

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Avian flu has been discovered in wild birds in 47 of Minnesota’s 87 counties. In Southeast Minnesota that includes Fillmore, Goodhue, Houston and Wabasha counties.

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A map shows Minnesota counties with confirmed cases of avian flu in wildlife and domestic birds.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

When combined with domestic bird reports from commercial poultry farms to backyard hobbyists, which include sites in Dodge and Mower counties, the disease has been found in 60 counties throughout the state.

Widman said Rochester parks staff have already been working under the assumption that the dead geese found in Silver lake had died from avian flu, since it’s uncommon for such numbers to die without an obvious cause.

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health reports the first strain of the current avian flu was found in the state on March 25, and the virus has not been found to have caused human illness in the state.

However, the disease can spread when enough virus gets into a person’s eyes, nose or mouth, or is inhaled.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to prevent avian flu exposure includes:

  • Avoiding direct contact with wild birds and observing them only from a distance.
  • Avoiding contact with poultry that appear ill or have died.
  • Avoiding contact with surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from wild or domestic birds.
  • Wearing gloves and washing your hands with soap and water if you must handle wild birds or sick or dead poultry.
  • Wearing respiratory protection, such as a medical face mask when handling birds.
  • Changing your clothing before contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds.

Widman said anyone finding a goose in Rochester city parks is asked to contact the Parks and Rec Department at 507-328-2900 to have the bird removed as quickly as possible.
Anyone finding suspicious dead waterfowl or a group of five or more dead wild birds throughout the state should report them to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource at 888-646-6367.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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