The ODFW cautions waterfowl hunters to be aware that Highly Pathogenic Bird Influenza (HPAI) has been spreading in wild birds in North America since December 2021, with many duck and goose seasons starting on October 8.
The latest strain of the virus was discovered for the first time in Oregon in May 2022 and is still present in flocks of backyard chickens and wild birds. As more waterfowl travel through Oregon or spend the winter here, more detections are anticipated in the fall and winter. During hunting season, hunters may potentially come into touch with sick ducks.
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The last time HPAI strains were found in wild birds was in the winter of 2014–2015, despite the fact that Low Pathogenic strains of Bird Flu naturally circulate among wild ducks. According to an ODFW press release, HPAI typically does not result in widespread mortality in wild waterfowl but frequently causes serious illness and death in other wild bird species as well as domestic waterfowl and poultry.
The mortality rate for wild ducks, shorebirds, raptors, and scavengers like vultures has increased as a result of this strain. Some mammalian carnivores, including coyotes, foxes, and skunks, who likely consumed infected birds, have also been found to have this strain.
Wildlife managers are continuing to keep an eye out for the disease by testing dead birds, sampling live birds, and collecting birds that hunters have killed.
Humans seem to be at low risk of contracting the H5N1 strain currently circulating, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though people who frequently come into close contact with wild birds, particularly waterfowl, may be at higher risk for exposure and should take precautions.
Visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/avian-in-humans.htm for further details.
The ODFW advises hunters to handle birds carefully. The following safe bird handling and cooking methods have been provided by the organisation and are particularly crucial this season due to HPAI:
Birds that are plainly ill or discovered dead should not be harvested.
When handling and cleaning game birds, put on rubber or latex gloves.
When handling birds, avoid eating, drinking, smoking, and touching your face.
Keep the game bird’s fluids and other foods away from it.
Knives and any other items or surfaces that come into contact with birds should be well-cleaned. Pour one gallon of water into a solution with one-third cup of chlorine bleach.
After handling birds, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (or with alcohol-based hand products if your hands are not visibly soiled).
All game meat must be fully cooked (to a minimum internal temperature of 165° F) to eradicate disease-causing germs, viruses, and parasites. Make sure the bird’s inside temperature has reached at least 165° F using a food thermometer.
Do not give dogs any raw waterfowl organs, meat, or other body parts.
In order to investigate and test for bird influenza, ODFW requests that hunters and the general public report groups of three or more sick or dead wild birds to the Wildlife Health lab at 866-968-2600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cloudy eyes, jerking or twisting the neck, swimming in circles, and lack of coordination are common signs in wild waterfowl. Wild mammals that are ill, dying, or aberrant neurologically should be reported in locations where birds have been afflicted.
Animals who are ill or found dead should not be handled. Use a shovel or impermeable gloves if necessary, wash your hands with soap and water, and change clothes before interacting with domestic poultry or pet birds.
Because of the threat HPAI poses to raptors, falconers are urged to refrain from shooting ducks and other waterbirds during the outbreak. Raptors that come into contact with contaminated bird prey or corpses are being killed by HPAI.
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Poultry in the home is at risk
Additionally fatal to domestic birds, this HPAI (H5N1) strain (chickens, turkeys, Guinea fowl). The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) admonishes home poultry farmers to keep their flocks separate from wild birds. Contact the State Veterinarian’s office at 1-800-347-7028 or AHHotline@oda.oregon.gov to report any sick domestic birds.
Along with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the Oregon Health Authority, and the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, ODFW is a component of the State of Oregon’s multi-agency response to highly pathogenic H5 avian influenza (USDA-APHIS).
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