Avian Flu: Arizona Game and Fish officials keeping an eye on cases

Millions of birds are dying across the country after catching avian flu, and in Arizona, wildlife officials are keeping a close eye on cases.

"This is a strain of avian influenza, which is called highly pathogenic," said Arizona Game and Fish Department's Wildlife Veterinarian, Anne Justice-Allen. "In other words, causes death in mostly chickens, but also waterfowl and other bird species as well."

Justice-Allen says the lethal strain started in December in Canada, and quickly spread south.

In June, three wild birds were found dead at El Dorado Park in Scottsdale, and their carcasses tested positive for the avian flu.

"Recently, as of September 15, we started getting reports of Canada geese dying in some local community waters, so some of the HOAs and Gilbert Water Park reported some mortality," said Justice-Allen.

Justice-Allen says they are prepared for migratory birds.

"This is not a surprise," said Justice-Allen. "We did kind of expect to see it. It's just about a month earlier that we expected to see it."

Experts say the risk of humans getting the disease is very, very low, but keeping it away from commercial or domestic populations is important.

"The one concern is if people have backyard poultry, chickens, and turkeys and start seeing those die, they are going to want to report that to the Arizona Department of Agriculture, and they're going to want to protect their turkeys and chickens from contact with waterfowl," said Justice-Allen.

Justice-Allen is encouraging everyone to report waterfowl deaths, so her department can immediately do an investigation.

"We want those birds removed from the landscape, because we don't want those remains to act as a source of infection for additional birds," said Justice-Allen.