The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) has issued an advisory regarding avian influenza in Oregon.
With many duck and goose seasons opening on October 8, the ODFW warned waterfowl hunters to 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 discoveries are expected in the fall and winter, when waterfowl migrate or winter through Oregon. Hunters are also likely to come into contact with infected waterfowl during the hunting season.
Although low pathogenic strains of avian influenza circulate naturally in wild waterfowl, detections of HPAI strains in wild birds are less frequent, most recently in winter 2014-2015. Typically, HPAI does not cause mass mortality in wild waterbirds, but often causes severe disease and death in other groups of wild birds and in native waterbirds and poultry, according to a statement from the ODFW.
However, this strain has led to increased mortality in wild waterfowl, shorebirds, birds of prey and scavengers such as vultures. This strain has also been identified in some mammalian carnivores, such as coyotes, foxes, and skunks, which likely fed on infected birds.
Wildlife managers continue to monitor the disease by testing birds found dead and taking samples from live birds and birds harvested by hunters for the disease.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that humans appear to have a low risk of infection with the current H5N1 strain, although individuals who have frequent close contact with wild birds, particularly waterfowl, may be at higher risk of exposure and it should take precautions.
For more information visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/avian-in-humans.htm
The ODFW urges hunters to practice safe handling of birds. The agency has issued the following safe handling and cooking techniques for birds of particular importance 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 wild birds.
- Do not eat, drink, smoke or touch your face when handling birds.
- Keep game birds and their juices away from other foods.
- Thoroughly clean knives and any other implements or surfaces that come in contact with birds. Use a solution of 1/3 cup of chlorine bleach per quart 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).
- Thoroughly cook all venison (to at least 165°F) to kill pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Use a food thermometer to make sure the bird’s interior has reached at least 165°F.
- Do not feed dogs raw meat, organs, or other tissue from harvested waterfowl.
ODFW requests 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, [email protected] for screening and testing for avian influenza .
Typical symptoms in wild waterfowl include cloudy eyes, shaking or swinging of the neck, swimming in circles, and loss of coordination. In areas where birds have been infected, wild mammals that are sick, dead, or neurologically abnormal may also be a cause for concern and should be reported.
Do not touch wild animals that are sick or found dead. If necessary, use a shovel or wear impervious gloves, wash hands with soap and water, and change clothing before handling domestic or ornamental birds.
Falconers are advised to avoid hunting waterfowl and other waterfowl during the HPAI outbreak because of the associated risk to raptors. HPAI kills raptors that come into contact with infected bird prey or carcasses.
Danger for domestic poultry
This strain of HPAI (H5N1) is also fatal 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. All sick pet birds should be reported to the Office of the State Veterinarian at 1-800-347-7028 or [email protected]
ODFW, along with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the Oregon Health Authority and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS), is part of the State of Oregon’s multi-agency response to the highly pathogenic H5 avian influenza.
Information on avian influenza in domestic birds can be found on the ODA website: https://www.oregon.gov/oda/programs/animalhealthfeedslivestockid/animaldiseases/pages/avianinfluenza.aspx