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New data from The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota shows a "substantial drop" in the number of avian flu bird patients being admitted within the past week.

The recent trend has researchers "hopeful" for what's to come, but it doesn't completely eliminate the threat wild birds are facing. 

From May 9-15, a total of 16 wild birds tested positive for the flu, the lowest number since the beginning of April. Fifteen tests returned negative results, and two tests were pending at the time of this report being released. 

"If the downward trend continues, it will mean birds gathering together will be less risky," a post from The Raptor Center reads. "If you took down your bird feeder to help limit birds congregating and spreading the virus to each other, we anticipate that by the start of June, the wildlife transmission risk will be low enough that feeders could go back up."

As of May 15, the following amount of each species of bird has tested positive for the avian flu after being brought to The Raptor Center:

  • 83 great horned owls
  • 37 bald eagles
  • 26 red-tailed hawks
  • 7 barred owls
  • 6 red-tailed hawks
  • 4 cooper's hawks
  • 3 turkey vultures
  • 1 broad-winged hawk
  • 1 northern harrier
  • 1 rough-legged hawk

The current strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is almost always fatal in raptors and causes severe neurological illness.

HPAI is spread through feces and respiratory secretions and can be shed by birds, such as waterfowl, without any symptoms, according to The Raptor Center. The outbreak is also sickening other wild bird species, including geese, blue jays and crows.

The Raptor Center says it will be providing weekly updates on the outbreak and how it's affecting wild birds, saying: "We want to be transparent and give others a better view into how this outbreak is impacting raptors in our area."

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