How concerned should Delaware bird hunters be about Avian Influenza H5N1?
Hunters should be aware of and educated about AI H5N1, but not overly concerned about it at present. Cases of human infections of H5N1 from wild birds are extremely rare and no occurrences have occurred from hunter-harvested birds. Additionally at present, H5N1 has not been found in any birds in Delaware, the Atlantic Flyway or North America. Also, it is not clear how persistent this virus is in wild bird populations or whether wild birds pose a long-distance, long-term means of spreading this disease. More research and surveillance over the coming year will allow better assessments of risks to birds and people in Delaware. Hunters should take common-sense precautions and use good hygiene while hunting, cleaning birds and preparing game for the table.
Can humans catch avian influenza from wild birds?
Cases of human infections of H5N1 from wild birds are extremely rare and, to date, are associated only with handling birds found dead, but additional direct transmission from wild birds to humans cannot be excluded. Normally, avian flu viruses are primarily a “bird disease” passed between various species of wild birds, with some highly pathogenic forms affecting domestic poultry. Almost all of the relatively small number of human cases of AI H5N1 have occurred in people who have been heavily exposed to infected poultry and poultry products.
How can I protect myself from avian influenza (H5N1) and other diseases while hunting?
Since it is possible that AI H5N1 as well as other diseases may be acquired from hunter contact with infected birds, hunters should take these common-sense precautions:
- Do not handle birds that are obviously sick or birds found dead.
- Keep your game birds cool, clean, and dry.
- Do not eat, drink, or smoke while cleaning your birds.
- Use rubber gloves when cleaning game.
- Wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol wipes after dressing birds.
- Clean all tools and surfaces immediately afterward; use hot soapy water, then disinfect with a 10% chlorine bleach solution.
- Cook game meat thoroughly (165ºF internal temperature) to kill disease organisms and parasites.
What about hunting dogs? Are they at risk?
Dogs used for hunting are not considered to be at risk. Dog owners should consult with their veterinarians for more information about avian influenza in pets.
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