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Avian influenza confirmed in dead South Carolina vultures

The vultures tested were part of a 'mass die-off' in Charleston County

CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. — Several South Carolina agencies are warning residents and visitors to be alert after a "mass die-off" of vultures uncovered a form of bird flu.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, Department of Natural Resources, and other agencies, in a joint statement, announced that highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) had been found in wild vultures that were part of the mass die-off in Charleston County recently. Authorities said that HPAI is caused by influenza subtypes that include H5N1.

As a result of the find, state authorities are urging the public to avoid contact with dead or sick birds and to keep their pets away from them as well. Authorities suggest people avoid areas where dead birds have been found.

"While the risk of HPAI transmission to people or pets and tame animals is thought to be low, the risk is also not well known and is best avoided by not having contact with dead birds," authorities said. "The virus causing HPAI can be spread through feathers and fecal matter, or dirt contaminated by infected birds."

Those who come into contact with a dead bird and develop a fever, cough, fatigue, body aches, or various other symptoms should seek medical attention and be sure to tell their healthcare provider and the local health department about their exposure.

Those who aren't sure if they have the virus but have come in contact with a deceased bird recently should monitor symptoms for 10 days to see if symptoms develop.

SC DNR is monitoring cases of avian flu in the state and is asking the public to report "unusual bird mortality events."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has additional information regarding avian flu, where it's been found, and how it spreads.

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