ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke says it received the first known case of a bald eagle to test positive for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).

Officials say the eagle was found dead in Carvins Cove on Sunday, Dec. 8. They report the eagle was taken to a veterinarian at the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center. During examinations, staff says x-rays showed no fractures or additional signs of bleeding.

The eagle was then sent to the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine where officials confirmed it died from HPAI.

According to a release, samples were sent to the National Veterinary Laboratory (NVSL) and it confirmed the strain of HPAI found in the eagle is mainly found in geese.

The Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke says HPAI is highly contagious and can cause illness and death in domestic gulls, ravens, crows, turkeys, grouse, raptors, and more. It says waterfowl birds do not normally show signs of illness when infected with the disease, however when prey feed on these birds they can become infected.

The center says symptoms of HPAI include the following:

  • lack of muscle control or coordination
  • head tilt
  • difficulty walking or flying
  • nasal or eye discharge
  • coughing or sneezing
  • sudden death
  • lack of appetite
  • diarrhea
  • swelling
  • purple discoloration

Officials say infected birds do not show signs of infection until they die. The center says there has been no reported HPAI-related human illness in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that HPAI is a low risk to the public.

The Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke says if anyone finds five or more dead birds in the same area within one to two days to call the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) at 855-571-9003.