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The British Columbia government reports testing has confirmed eight skunks found dead in late February in Richmond and Vancouver are positive for avian influenza.

Image/Collins John, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The skunks were found in residential areas in both cities and were taken to B.C.’s Animal Health Centre due to concerns they may have been deliberately poisoned. Testing revealed the skunks were infected with the same strain of H5N1 avian influenza that caused the deaths of wildlife and domestic poultry in the province since the April 2022 outbreak began. The skunks may have contracted influenza by scavenging infected wild birds.

Giant microbes

While influenza in skunks is considered to be a low risk to human health, there are always risks when people and pets come into contact with sick or dead wild animals, including skunks and birds. People who encounter a dead skunk in Richmond or Vancouver should leave the animal where it is and contact the B.C. Wildlife Health Program at 250 751-7246.

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Since April 2022, wildlife infected by avian influenza in B.C. have included more than 20 species of wild birds, as well as two skunks and one fox found in rural areas of the province.

The cases of H5N1 avian influenza in B.C. are part of a larger national and international outbreak.