Pelican tests positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – Colorado Parks and Wildlife pathologists have confirmed highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a pelican found in Jackson County. The pelican was euthanized on May 4 by CPW after the bird exhibited HPAI symptoms. Since the first confirmed case was found in wild geese in Northeastern Colorado on March 24, 2022, HPAI has been confirmed in several species of wild birds in Routt, Jackson, and Grand Counties.

Avian influenza, also known as bird flu, is an infectious disease found in wild birds caused by influenza A viruses. The virus can spread quickly through direct, bird-to-bird contact, as well as on contaminated surfaces, including clothes and hands. Wild birds such as waterfowl and shorebirds can carry the virus without showing any signs of the disease. However, some wild birds such as geese, swans, cranes, raptors, vultures and diving ducks may show symptoms, including swimming in circles, head tilt or twisted neck, and lack of coordination. Other signs may include swelling of the head, moving slowly, and ruffled feathers.

While avian influenza viruses rarely infect humans, there are simple steps you should take to protect yourself. The most effective way to protect yourself is to avoid handling sick or dead birds.

Hunters who handle wild birds should always wear rubber or latex gloves when handling wild game and dress game birds in the field whenever possible. Do not eat, drink or put anything in your mouth while cleaning or handling wild game. Wash your hands with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

Use dedicated tools, equipment, and surfaces when cleaning wild game. Be sure to wash and disinfect immediately after use. Simple solutions, such as a freshly mixed chlorine solution of 1/3 cup household bleach plus 1 gallon of water, can be used to kill the virus. Currently, there are many approved disinfectant products registered and intended for use against avian influenza A viruses. For more disinfectants approved to kill avian influenza viruses, visit the Antimicrobial Products Registered for Disinfection Use against Avian Influenza page located on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPS’s) website.

Avoid cross-contamination when preparing or cooking game meat by keeping cooked or ready-to-eat foods away from uncooked meat. Do not use the same utensils or surfaces used for uncooked meat to prepare other foods. Cook all game meat to an internal temperature of 165 °F. Keep wild bird carcasses away from domestic poultry by disposing of remains in a sealed trash bag before placing them into a covered trash can that children, pets, and poultry can’t get into.

Cases of HPAI can occur in-game bird facilities, wildlife rehabilitation centers, and falconry facilities. If you keep game birds or birds of prey, there are simple steps you can take to prevent an outbreak at your facility. Consider limiting intake of any new birds during this HPAI outbreak. If new birds are admitted, they should be quarantined when they arrive. To reduce the spread through bird-to-bird contact, minimize contact with other birds. Avoid using wild species (particularly waterfowl) when feeding raptors to reduce the risk of infection during HPAI outbreaks. Always practice good cleaning and biosecurity practices. If any bird is showing signs of HPAI, contact a veterinarian immediately.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife will continue to monitor and respond to additional cases. If you find three or more dead wild birds in a specific area within a two-week period, or if you see live birds showing clinical signs of disease, please contact your local Colorado Parks and Wildlife office.

For more information on HPAI check out CPW’s Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Fact Sheet. To learn more about the state’s response to HPAI in domestic poultry visit the Colorado Department of Agriculture.