CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – South Carolina’s lead health agency on Friday confirmed some dead vultures in Charleston County tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, Department of Natural Resources, US Department of Agriculture, and Clemson Livestock Poultry Health are aware of what they called a mass die-off of wild vultures in the county.

Some of the birds tested positive for HPAI, which they said is caused by influenza virus subtypes, including H5N1.

Leaders with the health agency said 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.

“DHEC urges community members to ensure that they, their pets and domestic animals avoid contact with dead or sick vultures, other birds and wild animals,” the agency said. “DHEC recommends that residents avoid areas where dead birds have been found.”

The virus causing HPAI can be spread through feathers and fecal material, or areas and items contaminated by infected birds.

“Handling dead birds without recommended protective measures increases the risk of transmission,” DHEC said. “SCDNR will continue monitoring and surveillance and encourages members of the public to report unusual bird mortality events.”

If you encounter a dead vulture – or other dead birds in the area – DHEC recommends you seek medical attention if you become ill with symptoms of fevers, cough, fatigue, body aches, etc., and report your potential exposure to your health care provider