LANSING, Mich. (AP/CBS DETROIT) — Avian influenza has been confirmed in three baby red foxes in Macomb, St. Clair and Lapeer counties.

The kits were confirmed Wednesday to have died from the HPAI virus, Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources said Thursday.

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They are the first confirmation by the state of the virus in wild mammals. The fox kits were collected from dens between April 1-14.

“HPAI H5N1 viruses may occasionally transmit from birds to mammals, as occurred in these cases, and there may be additional detections in other mammals during this outbreak, but they likely will be isolated cases,” Megan Moriarty, DNR wildlife veterinarian, said in a statement. “At this point, it is unclear how the fox kits became infected, but it’s possible that they were exposed by consuming infected birds, such as waterfowl.”

A healthy red fox kit in a grassy Michigan forest. (Michigan DNR)

The viruses “may occasionally transmit from birds to mammals, as occurred in these cases, and there may be additional detections in other mammals during this outbreak, but they likely will be isolated cases,” said Megan Moriarty, Michigan DNR wildlife veterinarian. “At this point, it is unclear how the fox kits became infected, but it’s possible that they were exposed by consuming infected birds, such as waterfowl.”

A baby fox in Minnesota also recently tested positive for the bird flu. It died, as did two red fox kits in Ontario, Canada, who tested positive for the avian flu last week.

Avian influenza is highly pathogenic and affects birds throughout North America. It has been detected in backyard flocks and commercial poultry facilities, and in wild birds in more than 30 states, according to the DNR.

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The Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development said on Wednesday that the virus was detected in the first commercial poultry flock in the state.

MDARD says it is responding to more than 10 cases of non-commercial backyard flocks from nine counties across Michigan.

State officials say the virus has been confirmed in 69 wild birds.

Farms have euthanized millions of birds.

On Tuesday, Michigan officials announced a temporary ban on all poultry and waterfowl exhibitions amid the avian flu outbreak. The ban was expected to last until Michigan goes 30 days without a case of the avian flu. In 2015, avian flu prompted a similar ban on Michigan poultry shows.

Reporting sick or dead wildlife

Anyone who notices what appears to be unusual or unexplained deaths among wild birds or sick, dead or neurologically abnormal foxes is asked to report the information by:

“We greatly appreciate the effort to report instances of animals that are sick or appear to have unusual or unexplained deaths, because those tips often lead to important information,” said Moriarty. “Every bird or animal reported may not be tested for HPAI, but all observations are important.”

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