Wyoming Game and Fish and the State Vet urge caution handling birds
by Wyoming Game & Fish
January 17, 2015
The confirmation of a strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza in other western states has prompted a warning from Wyoming officials to be on the lookout for birds that may exhibit symptoms of the disease. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the State Veterinarian also ask that those handling birds or who own birds to use caution.
Most of the confirmations have been in the Pacific Northwest, but on January 9, 2015 the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Iowa confirmed an American widgeon taken by a Utah hunter was positive for the influenza virus strain H5N8. Several other birds taken by hunters near the Great Salt Lake are also undergoing tests.
Utah is in the Pacific Flyway for waterfowl and the part of Wyoming west of the Continental Divide is also in the Pacific Flyway. Highly pathogenic avian influenza was also recently found in wild and domestic birds in Washington, Oregon and California; but at this point has not affected the commercial poultry industry in these locations. The disease has not been implicated in any human infection in the US, to date, and has not been found in Wyoming. Officials say there is no immediate human health concern due to the recent detection of the virus in other states.
"Finding the H5N8 strain of the Avian Influenza virus in wild birds in Utah after previously finding the disease in migratory wild birds in Oregon and Washington is a concern," said State Veterinarian, Jim Logan. "Although there is no immediate threat to domestic birds in Wyoming, we advise domestic poultry owners – commercial and backyard flocks - to take precautions to prevent their birds from having any contact or exposure with wild birds. Avian influenza can be transmitted to domestic bird flocks from infected wild birds."
Avian influenza H5N8 is a reportable disease in Wyoming. Owners of domestic poultry and veterinarians are encouraged to report signs of sick or dead birds to the State Veterinarian’s office at (307) 857 4140 or the USDA’s APHIS Wyoming office at (307) 432 7960 for diagnostic and epidemiologic evaluation. If individuals find dead wild birds in the field, they can call their local game warden, wildlife biologist or Game and Fish office. Owners of private game bird farms and falconers should contact Game and Fish personnel with any concerns.
Proper handling and cooking includes routine precautions like wearing latex or rubber gloves when cleaning birds, washing hands with soapy water after cleaning, cleaning and disinfecting equipment and surfaces that come in contact with wild birds (for example, washing with soapy water and disinfecting with a 10 percent chlorine bleach solution), and cooking wild birds thoroughly before eating the meat. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that birds are safe to eat as long as they are properly handled and cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees.
Avian influenza (commonly called "bird flu") is a viral infection found in a wide variety of domestic and wild birds. While most avian influenza viruses rarely cause clinical signs in wild waterfowl, HPAI occasionally can cause disease and mortality in wild birds. Additionally, the avian influenza virus can be transmitted to birds of prey from all ducks (including sea ducks), geese, swans, seabirds (alcids, fulmar, cormorants and grebes), cranes and herons. Waterfowl can be reservoirs for avian influenza strains that can be fatal to domestic poultry, therefore backyard and commercial poultry raised near areas associated with high waterfowl use are at risk of transmission.
In a sick bird, clinical signs may include edema or swelling of the head, nasal discharge, neurologic signs (circling, lack of coordination), depression or other signs of illness. Birds such as crows, ravens, magpies, gulls, raptors, owls, or avian species that would potentially scavenge or predate upon/eat waterfowl/seabirds could be candidates for infection.