Highly pathogenic avian influenza

Many strains of avian influenza virus (AIV) occur naturally in wild birds. Since December 2014 highly pathogenic strains of Avian Influenza virus (HPAIV) have been documented in wild birds in North America, including one case in British Columbia. HPAIV refers to strains that are highly pathogenic to domestic poultry. It is unknown how these viruses will impact wild bird populations. Of the known cases of HPAIV infected wild birds, many were hunter harvested waterfowl including Mallard, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, American Green-winged Teal and Gadwall. A few sick Canada Geese have also tested positive in the USA. To date, there have been no North American human cases of Avian Influenza reported that resulted from exposure to wild birds on this continent.

Hunters of migratory game birds should follow precautions to protect themselves and prevent the spread of AIV and other diseases among birds. These include implementing hygiene procedures and practices, including: cleaning and disinfecting equipment and clothes worn during hunting, handling and cleaning of game birds; hand cleaning and wearing gloves; not eating, drinking or smoking while handling and cleaning wild birds; and working in a well-ventilated environment. Be particularly diligent if you plan to have contact with domestic poultry. Avian influenza does not pose a risk to food safety when birds or their products are properly handled and cooked. Should you become ill, please inform your doctor of your contact with wild birds. All hunters should report sick or dead birds, particularly if a group of five or more birds is found that are dead from unknown causes, to the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at 1-800-567-2033.

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