NDSU Extension Offers Guidance On Handling HPAI-Suspected Wildlife This Spring

Mar 17, 2023

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) continues to be documented in domestic poultry and wildlife populations across the United States. North Dakota has had no positive domestic cases since November. However, the risk of transmission will increase as spring migration starts and millions of wild birds return to the area.

With wild birds and mammals testing positive for HPAI, hunters, homeowners and landowners should be aware of what steps to take if they see sick or deceased wildlife, advise North Dakota State University Extension specialists.

“The primary carriers of avian influenza A are waterfowl, gulls, terns and shorebirds,” says Dr. Gerald Stokka, NDSU Extension veterinarian and livestock stewardship specialist. “H5N1 HPAI has been detected in wild birds throughout all U.S. migratory flyways. Wild birds can be infected without showing symptoms of the infection. While waterfowl are the primary carriers, positive cases are being documented in predatory birds and mammals.”

Hunters participating in spring season should be aware of the risk of HPAI in wildlife and use measures to prevent transmission to domestic poultry flocks. Sick wildlife will display neurological symptoms.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the public health risk from the current HPAI outbreak is low,” says Dr. Stokka. “People should not handle dead wild birds and also should avoid transporting sick or dead birds.”

“If you hunt and have domestic poultry and birds, do not wear hunting clothes while you are in with your birds,” says Miranda Meehan, NDSU Extension livestock environmental stewardship specialist. “Infected birds shed bird flu viruses in their saliva, mucous and feces.”

“Hunters of wild birds are more likely to have increased exposure to the virus, which may increase risk of infection,” says Mary Keena, NDSU Extension livestock environmental management specialist. “Hunters should dress game birds in the field when possible and practice good biosecurity to prevent any potential disease spread.

“Dogs are not at high risk to contract the virus,” says Dr. Stokka. “However, there have been documented cases of dogs transmitting HPAI to domestic flocks. If your dog has interacted with wildlife, take measures to keep them away from poultry.”

Avian influenza surveillance and testing in wild birds is being done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the North Dakota Department of Game and Fish.

Report sick and dead wildlife at https://gf.nd.gov/wildlife/diseases/mortality-report. Direct wild bird avian influenza questions to 701-204-2161.

According to the CDC, if you must handle wild birds or sick or dead poultry, minimize direct contact by wearing gloves and washing your hands with soap and water after touching birds,” says Dr. Stokka. “If available, wear respiratory protection such as a medical facemask. After handling wild birds, discard the gloves and facemask, change your clothing, disinfect footwear, and then wash your hands with soap and water.”

The North Dakota Department of Game and Fish suggests the following steps be taken to reduce risk of infection:

  • Do not handle wildlife that is found dead or appears to be sick.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke while cleaning game, and avoid contamination of your eyes, mouth, nose, or any open cuts or sores with blood or other fluids from game that you are cleaning.
  • Wash hands, cleaning utensils and other surfaces with soap and hot water immediately after cleaning game.

“There is no evidence that anyone has contracted the virus from eating a fully cooked bird, either domestic or wild,” says Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor of health, nutrition and exercise sciences. “It is always a safe practice to fully cook wild game to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, regardless of whether there is a threat of HPAI.”

Source : ndsu.edu
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