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Avian flu found in wild mallard at Fern Ridge
No human health risk but falcons, hawks may be susceptible to virus

Jan. 14, 2015

SALEM, Ore.--Avian influenza strain HPAI H5N2 has been found in a mallard harvested by a hunter at Fern Ridge Wildlife Area near Eugene, Ore. The virus strain, known as H5N2, poses no immediate threat to human health. It has been circulating in Europe and East Asia and has not made people sick.

The female mallard was sampled Dec. 20, 2014 as part of routine testing by ODFW, USDA/APHIS, USGS and USFWS. Testing for high path avian influenza is done at several labs including the OSU Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in Corvallis. However, further confirmation regarding the strain of bird flu virus requires special testing at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

ODFW was notified of positive test results for the HPAI H5N2 found in the Fern Ridge mallard yesterday. It is the same strain that was detected in a pintail duck in northwestern Washington state last month.

The strain has not caused noticeable disease for Oregon’s wild waterfowl, which have evolved with the virus and usually do not get sick. The mallard did not show signs of sickness and there have been no reports of any recent waterfowl die-offs related to avian influenza anywhere in North America.

This detection follows a December detection of another avian influenza strain, HPAI H5N8, in backyard poultry near Winston, Ore.  It marks the second highly pathogenic avian influenza virus identified in Oregon.

The detection is not a surprise for wildlife managers. “After seeing initial results from other states, we suspected the HPAI strains (H5N2 and H5N8) would be found in wild waterfowl in Oregon,” said Brandon Reishus, ODFW migratory bird coordinator. “California has also documented the virus in waterfowl and it has been found as far west as Davis County, Utah.”

This time of year, migratory waterbirds (ducks, geese, shorebirds) are on wintering areas throughout the Pacific Flyway, which extends from Alaska to South America. In the coming months these birds will migrate back to nesting areas to the north, potentially spreading the virus to new areas. Wild birds can pass the influenza virus to their species or other bird species inhabiting shared wetlands or through predator and prey interactions.

While this strain often does not sicken waterfowl, it may be a threat to falcons and hawks, which can exhibit symptoms and die. ODFW is advising falconers to refrain from hunting wild waterfowl or feeding their birds wild waterfowl meat or organ tissue.  More information is available at ODFW’s falconry webpage. Oregon has 130 licensed falconers.

Wildlife managers will continue to test wild birds in Oregon for avian influenza. For more information on avian influenza in wild birds, visit USGS National Wildlife Health Center.

Hunters: practice safe bird handling
The strain of avian influenza found in Oregon and other western states is no immediate threat to human health. But hunters should always practice safe bird handling and cooking techniques:

  • Wear rubber or latex gloves when handling and cleaning game birds.
  • Do not eat, drink, smoke or touch your face when handling birds.
  • Keep the game bird and its juices away from other foods.
  • Thoroughly clean knives and any other equipment or surfaces that touch birds. Use a solution of one third cup of chlorine bleach per one gallon of water.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after handling birds (or with alcohol-based hand products if your hands are not visibly soiled).
  • Cook all game meat thoroughly (up to at least 165° F) to kill disease organisms and parasites. Use a food thermometer to ensure the inside of the bird has reached at least 165° F.

Upland bird and waterfowl (duck, goose) hunting seasons are open through Jan. 25, 2015 in Oregon. Goose hunting is also open in parts of the state during late January, February and March.

Danger to domestic poultry
This strain of the flu (H5N2) is deadly to domestic birds (chickens, turkeys, Guinea fowl). The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) strongly encourages backyard poultry producers to prevent contact between their birds and wild birds. Any sick domestic birds should be reported to the State Veterinarian’s office at 1-800-347-7028 or USDA at 1-866-536-7593.

ODFW is part of the State of Oregon’s multi-agency response to highly pathogenic H5 avian influenza, along with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the Oregon Health Authority and the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS).

For information on avian influenza in domestic birds, visit ODA’s website:




Michelle Dennehy
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
(503 947-6022

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