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Increase in avian flu expected during fall migration: Waterfowl hunters should take precautions

October 5, 2022

SALEM, Ore.—With many duck and goose seasons set to open Oct. 8, waterfowl hunters should be aware that Highly Pathogenic Avian influenza (HPAI) has been circulating in wild birds in North America since December 2021.

The current strain of the virus was first detected in Oregon in May 2022 and continues to be found in wild birds and backyard poultry flocks. More detections are expected during fall and winter as waterfowl migrate through Oregon or spend the winter here. Hunters are also likely to come in contact with infected waterfowl during the hunting season.

Although Low Pathogenic strains of Avian Influenza naturally circulate in wild waterfowl, detections of HPAI strains in wild birds are less frequent, with the last occurrence during the winter of 2014-2015. Typically, HPAI does not cause large-scale mortality in wild waterfowl but often causes severe illness and death in other groups of wild birds and in domestic waterfowl and poultry.

However, this strain has caused increased mortality for wild waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, and scavengers such as vultures. This strain has also been detected in some mammalian carnivores such as coyotes, foxes, and skunks that have likely fed on infected birds.

Wildlife managers are continuing to monitor for the disease by testing birds found dead and sampling live birds and birds harvested by hunters for the disease.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, humans appear to be at low risk for infection with the current H5N1 strain, although individuals who have frequent close contact with wild birds, especially waterfowl, may be at higher risk for exposure and should take precautions. More info at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/avian-in-humans.htm

Hunters: practice safe bird handling
Hunters should always practice the following safe bird handling and cooking techniques and especially this season due to HPAI:

  • Do not harvest birds that are obviously sick or found dead.
  • 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 including bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Use a food thermometer to ensure the inside of the bird has reached at least 165° F.
  • Do not feed dogs raw meat, organs or other tissue from harvested waterfowl.

ODFW asks that hunters and the public report groups of three or more sick or dead wild birds to the Wildlife Health lab at 866-968-2600, odfw.wildlifehealth@odfw.oregon.gov so they can be investigated and tested for avian influenza. Typical symptoms in wild waterfowl include cloudy eyes, shaking or swinging the neck around, swimming in circles, and incoordination. In areas where birds have been infected, sick, dead, or neurologically abnormal wild mammals also may be cause for concern and should be reported.

Do not handle wildlife that is sick or found dead. If it is necessary to do so, use a shovel or wear impermeable gloves, wash hands with soap and water, and change clothing before having contact with domestic poultry or pet birds.

Falconers are advised to avoid hunting waterfowl and other waterbirds during the HPAI outbreak because of the risk it presents to raptors. HPAI is killing raptors that come into contact with infected avian prey or carcasses.

Danger to domestic poultry
This strain of HPAI (H5N1) is also 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 AHHotline@oda.oregon.gov

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: https://www.oregon.gov/oda/programs/animalhealthfeedslivestockid/animaldiseases/pages/avianinfluenza.aspx

Photos of ducks and geese available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/odfw/albums/72157623425683163

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Contact:

Michelle Dennehy, (503) 931-2748, Michelle.N.Dennehy@odfw.oregon.gov

 
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