Precautions recommended to prevent spread of highly pathogenic virus
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 18, 2022) – Federal officials notified the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources on Friday that avian influenza has been detected in waterfowl in the state.
The public health risk posed by this disease is low and meat harvested from wild birds does not present a food safety risk when handled and cooked properly.
Recent testing at 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 sick snow geese collected at Ballard Wildlife Management Area in Ballard County.
In light of this detection and others in commercial poultry operations in Fulton and Webster counties, federal and state agencies are recommending that anyone involved with poultry production, from commercial producers to those with small backyard flocks, review their biosecurity practices to ensure the health of their birds.
“There are many different subtypes of avian influenza viruses,” said Dr. Christine Casey, wildlife veterinarian for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “These viruses are classified as either ‘low pathogenic’ or ‘highly pathogenic’ based on their ability to produce disease in domestic poultry. Wild waterfowl do not typically exhibit signs of disease, but mortality can occur in wild birds infected with highly pathogenic strains.”
In recent months, HPAI has been detected in waterfowl from several Atlantic Flyway states. Kentucky is in the Mississippi Flyway.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is collaborating with USDA Wildlife Services on surveillance efforts and will continue to monitor for illness and any die-offs involving wild birds.
The public health risk posed by HPAI in wild birds and poultry is low. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), no cases of avian influenza viruses have been detected in people in the United States.
Avian influenza does not present a food safety risk. Wild game is safe to eat when properly handled and cooked to recommended temperature; cooking to an internal temperature of 165 degrees kills bacteria and viruses, including HPAI.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife and the USDA also encourage hunters to follow these routine precautions:
- Do not harvest or handle wild birds that are obviously sick or otherwise found dead.
- Wear gloves and wash hands with soap and warm water after handling wild birds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Disinfect any materials (e.g., knives, equipment and surfaces) that come in contact with dead birds. Use dedicated tools for cleaning game and avoid using them around poultry or pet birds.
- Avoid touching your eyes or mouth while cleaning game.
- Double bag the feathers and other remains. Tie the inner bag, take off your gloves and leave them in the outer bag before tying it closed. Then wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. Place the bag in the trash and close the lid on the receptacle.
The public can report observations of sick or dead wild birds (waterfowl, wild turkeys, birds of prey and other wild birds) directly to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife through an online reporting system at https://arcg.is/1KaDKT.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife asks for reports of wild bird die-offs of the following birds:
- Waterfowl (ducks, geese, and swans) and other water birds (loons, grebes, coots, shorebirds or wading birds such as egrets, herons, or cranes);
- Birds of prey (hawks, eagles, owls) or other avian scavengers (ravens, crows, or gulls), particularly those observed near locations of waterfowl die-offs;
- Wild turkeys; or
- Any five or more individuals of bird species not listed above.