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Wildlife Experts Advise Hunters About Avian Flu
AUSTIN, Texas — State and federal wildlife experts say the chance of people in Texas encountering wild migratory birds with HPAI H5N1 avian influenza this year is remote. However, authorities are launching proactive efforts to detect the disease if it comes to North America and they’re advising hunters about game bird handling to reduce general disease risks.
At present, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 has not been found anywhere in North America–there are no records of positive tests in wild or domestic birds, and no known human cases of illness. However, the “bird flu” has been publicized in news reports which note it has caused illness in more than 100 people and killed close to 60 people in Southeast Asia. All of those deaths involved contact with domestic poultry, not wild birds.
Some people believe the disease could eventually travel to North America through wild bird migration, including possible transmission from Asia through Alaska.
A collaborative interagency working group of scientists, public health officials, and policy makers with state and federal agencies is developing a plan for early detection of HPAI H5N1 in North American birds. For more than a year, working group member agencies in Alaska have tested samples from thousands of wild birds and have found no evidence of the disease.
A Sept. 2 statement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said “Ongoing migratory bird surveillance, coupled with what we now know about the scope of the disease in Asia and the projected movement of birds from affected areas, gives us reason to think that, while possible, there is no evidence to indicate that H5N1 will reach Alaska, or any other part of North America, in 2005.”
Practical hygiene for hunters includes: (1) Do not handle or butcher game animals that are obviously sick or are found dead; (2) Do not eat, drink, or smoke while cleaning game; (3) Wear rubber gloves and washable clothing when cleaning game; (4) Wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol wipes immediately after handling game; (5) Wash tools and working surfaces with soap and water, then disinfect with a 10% solution of chlorine bleach; and (6) Cook game meat thoroughly–poultry should reach an internal temperature of 155-165 degrees F.
On the Net:
- TPWD News Roundup on Avian Influenza: http://tpwd.texas.gov/newsmedia/releases/news_roundup/avian_influenza/
- National Wildlife Health Center: http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/
- Center for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/index.htm
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