Avian Flu Guide
2006-2007 Waterfowl Digest - Texas Hunting Regulations for Ducks, Mergansers, Coots, Geese and Cranes
What is avian flu?
Avian influenza is caused by a virus that infects domestic poultry and wild birds (primarily geese, ducks and shorebirds). Each year, there is a bird flu season just as there is for humans.
Is avian flu a threat to me?
Avian flu has not been found in North America, and surveillance is ongoing across the U.S. and Canada. Texas and the entire country will be part of an early detection and surveillance program. Even if the virus is found, it does not signal the beginning of a human pandemic.
Common-sense safety and hygiene practices are essential when bird watching or handling wild bird feeders or equipment.
- Avoid touching wildlife. If there is contact with wildlife, do not rub eyes, eat, drink or smoke before washing hands with soap and water.
- Use disposable or washable gloves when cleaning or handling backyard feeders, bird baths or other equipment. Wash hands thoroughly after handling.
- Contact your state, county, tribal or local natural resource agency if a sick or dead animal is found.
Is it safe to hunt?
It is perfectly safe to hunt waterfowl. There are no confirmed cases of wild birds transmitting the virus to humans. However, hunters should avoid risk. The USGS National Wildlife Health Center has issued guidance to follow routine precautions when handling wild birds. The Center recommends these steps:
- Do not handle obviously sick birds or birds found dead.
- Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves while handling and cleaning game. Wash hands with soap and water (or with alcohol-based hand products), and thoroughly clean knives and surfaces that come in contact with game.
- Do not eat, drink or smoke while handling or cleaning birds.
- Cook all game meat thoroughly (155 to 165 degrees) to kill disease organisms and parasites.
Is it safe to feed and/or observe wild birds?
There is no reason to believe that backyard birds are a threat to public health. The risk of humans contracting avian influenza from feeding wild birds or visiting wetlands is very low. As a general rule, people should observe wildlife, including wild birds, from a distance. This protects both the people and the animal.
For more information on avian influenza, visit the following Web sites:
- U.S. Department of Agriculture
- National Wildlife Health Center (U.S. Geological Survey)
- Pandemic Flu Site