#05-262 December 5, 2005
What Hunters Should Know About Avian Influenza
S. C. Department of Natural Resources has received several contacts over the last few weeks concerning avian influenza. There has been a lot of speculation and hype about the possibility of avian influenza, often referred to as bird flu, reaching the United States. Waterfowl hunters and the public in general should note that as of November 2005, H5N1 avian influenza has not been found in North America and there is no record of positive tests in wild or domestic birds, and no known human cases of illness.
Most viruses do not persist very long after they have left their host and can be neutralized with heat, drying, and disinfectants. Precautions hunters should take include:
Do not handle or harvest birds that are obviously sick or are found dead.
Do not eat, drink, or smoke while cleaning animals.
Wear protective gloves and washable clothing when cleaning game.
Wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol wipes immediately after handling game.
Wash tools and working surfaces with soap and water and then disinfect with a 10% solution of chlorine bleach.
Cook game meat thoroughly. Poultry should reach an internal temperature of 155-165 F.
For more information on avian influenza and hunting, call the Columbia DNR office at (803) 734-3886.
The risk from bird flu is generally low to most people because the viruses occur mainly among birds and do not usually infect humans. However, during an outbreak of bird flu among poultry (domesticated chicken, ducks, turkeys), there is a possible risk to people who have contact with infected birds or surfaces that have been contaminated with excretions from infected birds. The current outbreak of avian influenza A (H5N1) among poultry in Asia and Europe is an example of a bird flu outbreak that has caused human infections and deaths.
There are many different subtypes of type A influenza viruses. Bird flu viruses could change over time and develop the ability to be transmitted from human to human. This situation has the potential to create a pandemic outbreak because humans are not naturally immune to it. However, the bird flu has not changed drastically enough to be contagious between people at this time.
There are no known cases where H5N1 has been transmitted from wild birds to humans. Healthy wild birds can be infected with other microorganisms and parasites than can move between wildlife and people. "Using a little common sense, such as wearing gloves, keeping tools and works surfaces clean when harvesting migratory game birds, can go a long way toward protecting yourself," said Derrell Shipes, chief of Statewide Projects, Research and Surveys for the Wildlife Section of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR