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Federal authorities have confirmed the presence of avian flu in waterfowl in Jefferson County, the first time the virus has been detected in wild birds in Kentucky since May.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in samples from two different waterfowl species collected at a neighborhood pond in Jefferson County on October 5. This follows detection of the same virus in domestic, backyard flocks in Fayette and Logan Counties earlier this month.
Avian influenza viruses occur naturally in wild birds, especially waterfowl, and can be found globally. There are many different subtypes of avian influenza viruses. These viruses are classified as either “low pathogenic” or “highly pathogenic” (HPAI), based on their ability to produce disease in domestic poultry.
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While domestic poultry may exhibit high mortality due to infection from HPAI, wild waterfowl do not typically exhibit signs of disease. Raptor species, however, may be highly vulnerable to HPAI virus infection.
Transmission can occur in several ways. Domestic birds can be exposed to the virus from contaminated clothing, boots, and equipment as well as from wild birds or their feces. It is important to practice good biosecurity and keep domestic birds isolated from other flocks.
Surveillance for avian influenza viruses in wild populations can provide a warning to commercial producers and farmers to help prevent domestic exposure. USDA and state wildlife and animal health officials across the country work together to aggressively monitor and track avian influenza outbreaks as part of the National Avian Influenza Surveillance Plan.
The public can help limit the spread of the disease by avoiding contact with birds and their droppings at home and outdoor areas such as parks and ponds. They can also practice good hygiene with such simple precautions as wearing gloves, changing shoes, and disinfecting exposed tools or materials before coming into contact with any pet or domestic bird species at home.
The risk to human health posed by HPAI in wild birds and domestic poultry is low. Meat and eggs harvested from wild or domestic birds does not present a food safety risk when handled and cooked properly.
For questions about High Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in domestic poultry, please refer to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s webpage:kyagr.com/statevet/HPAI.html.
The KDFWR monitors for HPAI viruses by testing waterfowl and sick and dead birds. The Department asks members of the public to help with our surveillance efforts by reporting observations of sick or dead wild birds directly by calling KDFWR at 1-800-858-1549 or reporting at our
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife asks for reports of wild bird die-offs of the following wild bird species:
Though the risk of transmission of avian influenza to a human from wild birds is very low, the KDFWR recommends hunters and bird enthusiasts take the following routine precautions:
Infected birds shed the virus into their saliva, mucous and feces, so avoid handling entrails. It’s best to breast out your birds rather than field dressing them. You should not feed carcasses to your dog or let your dog handle a bird beyond carrying it back to you. Remember that if you transport waterfowl, each bird must retain a wing or head for identification purposes. You should wait until you get home before breasting out your birds, doing so outside or in a well-ventilated area.
You can pick up and transmit the disease by handling carcasses. If you raise chickens or other domesticated birds, you can pass the disease onto these animals. It’s best to wear disposable gloves when handling your waterfowl carcasses. Wash your hands and exposed skin with soap and water afterwards. Consider wearing a face mask and goggles when processing your birds. Wash your processing equipment and work surfaces after processing your waterfowl.
Cooking meat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees will kill bacteria and viruses. Wild game is safe to eat when properly handled and cooked to the recommended temperature. This kills bacteria and viruses, including HPAI.
Double bag carcasses for pickup in your garbage or bury them deeply enough that animals will not dig them up. Don’t just throw carcasses in the woods behind your house. While there are no reports of dogs getting the disease in the United States, red foxes and coyotes have been infected. It’s best to protect your valuable hunting dogs by not letting them eat carcasses.
Do not harvest or handle wild birds that seem sick or are found dead. Reporting problems helps Kentucky Fish and Wildlife monitor any outbreaks. Do so by utilizing our online reporting system. Birds stricken with the disease may act strangely, such as being unsteady or waving their heads. Reports should include location, date seen, species affected and what was seen.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
USGS National Wildlife Health Center