Bald Eagles Across America Infected by Newly Discovered Virus

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Bald Eagles Across America Infected by Newly Discovered Virus

Researchers have discovered a previously unknown virus infecting nearly a third of America’s bald eagle population.

The newly identified bald eagle hepacivirus, or BeHV, may contribute to the fatal disease, which causes eagles to stumble and have seizures.

But BeHV was also found in eagles without symptoms of the syndrome, making a direct link between virus and disease difficult to confirm. The virus is related to human hepatitis C virus, which causes liver damage in people, and some birds with BeHV show similar effects. BeHV infects eagles from Washington to Florida but is most common in Wisconsin’s eagles...

Wisconsin River Eagle Syndrome (WRES) was first described in the 1990s. The river attracts eagles year-round because its open waters allow the birds to fish through the winter. Observers near the river spotted eagles vomiting or staggering, and all of these birds either succumbed to the disease or were euthanized...

Yet the presence of BeHV in birds collected outside of Wisconsin — none of which had been diagnosed with WRES — suggests the virus may not be responsible for the enigmatic disease, or that the story is more complex....

“We don’t think this virus is having a serious impact on the bald eagle population, but the fact that WRES is an unknown condition keeps our interest,” says Strom, an environmental toxicologist with the DNR. “This study is another piece of the puzzle. Hopefully, we can find more pieces and figure out what is happening.”

Click Here for Full story in SciTechDaily