BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP)– Massachusetts wildlife officials have reported dozens of dead seabirds found in recent weeks along the state’s shoreline are infected with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).

In a news release sent to 22News from the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game (DFG), HPAI has been detected in domestic and wild birds from Canada to Florida for the past several months. While the disease rarely infects humans, they warn people to not touch or remove birds from coastal areas that appear sick, injured, or deceased.

Both wild and domesticated birds can become infected with HPAI. Raptors, waterfowl and other aquatic birds, and scavengers are most at risk for infection. Impacted seabirds include, but are not limited to, seagulls, ducks, terns, and cormorants.

“Over the past week, Massachusetts has seen a substantial uptick in reports of dead and dying seabirds, including eiders, cormorants, and gulls,” said Andrew Vitz, MassWildlife State Ornithologist. “We are asking for the public’s help in reporting observations of sick shorebirds along the coastline. Prompt reporting will expedite testing and diagnosis in cooperation with our state and federal partners who have been monitoring HPAI for several years.”

“Avian Influenza rarely infects humans,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Catherine Brown. “Although the risk is low, direct contact with infected birds or heavily contaminated environments can sometimes spread the disease to people. People are urged not to handle or feed any birds suspected of being infected.”

  • Reporting wild birds: the public should report observations of any sick, injured, of deceased seabirds. For other species of wild birds, such as songbirds, only report observations of 5 or more birds found at a single location. The public can report observations using this simple webform at mass.gov/reportbirds.
  • Reporting domestic birds: the public should report sick or dead poultry or other domestic birds by calling MDAR’s Division of Animal Health at (617) 626-1795.
  • Handling birds: The public should avoid handling any dead birds or birds showing signs of illness. If an individual must handle birds, please wear nitrile or latex gloves, eye protection, and an N95 face mask.

For more information regarding the disease, go to MDAR’s Avian Influenza webpage.