The National Veterinary Services Laboratory has confirmed H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), also known as bird flu, in hunter-harvested blue-winged teal in southwest Louisiana. Additionally, several captive birds have died from HPAI in northeast Louisiana.
HPAI has been detected in wild birds, domestic poultry, or both in 49 states and resulted in the death of over 3,000 wild birds and nearly 48 million domestic birds (poultry). Waterfowl can become sick and die from the disease, however, many birds are carriers that do not show clinical signs. LDWF routinely investigates reports of sick or dead bird events if large numbers are impacted.
The Center for Disease Control considers H5N1 HPAI a low risk for public health. While the virus presents a low risk to humans, it is important to avoid contact with sick birds. Also, be mindful that hunting equipment may transport the virus. If you hunt waterfowl and have backyard poultry, plan for added biosecurity measures (http://www.bah.state.mn.us/media/HPAI-Notice-Backyard-Final.pdf) to keep your flock healthy.
Some general safety guidelines for hunters and others handling wildlife and their tissues include:
•Do not handle or eat sick game.
•Field dress and prepare game outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.
•Wear rubber or disposable nitrile gloves while handling and cleaning game.
•When done handling game, wash hands thoroughly with soap or disinfectant and clean knives, equipment, and surfaces that were exposed to game with hot soapy water and a 10% bleach solution.
•Do not eat, drink or consume tobacco products while handling animals.
•All game should be cooked thoroughly to an internal temperature of at least 165° F.
•Avoid contact with surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from wild or domestic birds.
•Hunters should not feed organs, viscera or carcasses to retrievers or leave carcasses to be consumed by other wildlife.
Some other protective measures include:
•As a general rule, observe wild birds from a distance, do not attempt to handle wild animals. Avoid contact with domestic birds (poultry) that appear ill or have died.
•People who work with poultry and wild birds should receive the annual influenza (flu) vaccine. This action reduces the potential for genetic changes in avian influenza, which may render the virus more apt to infect people, thus increasing the potential of pandemic influenza.