Spring and fall are a critical time for migratory waterfowl such as ducks, geese, and other migratory birds to bring avian influenza into Utah.
SALT LAKE CITY – Utah waterfowl hunters and backyard poultry farmers should realize that the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus returns to the expected fall as migratory birds fly back across the state. Officials first reported Utah’s first confirmed case of bird flu in wild birds in April.
The Utah Department of Wildlife Resources confirmed that the virus has spread to wild birds in three other counties — Davis, Millard and Sunbeet — likely due to fall migration.
Cash, Webber, Salt Lake, Utah, Twill and Carbon counties reported confirmed cases of the virus earlier in the spring.
Ginger Stout, a veterinarian at DWR, wants people to report dead birds any time they find them in one place. It also warns people not to touch any dead waterfowl.
“If anyone finds a group of five or more dead waterfowl or shorebirds – or any individual scavengers or raptors – they should report it to the nearest DWR office And make absolutely sure not to touch or catch the birds.” “Notify us, and we will come collect them for testing.”
While positive flu detections decreased during the summer, as immigration began this fall, there has been an increase in positive cases, especially over the past two weeks.
“We continue to monitor this virus in wild bird populations,” Stout said. “This particular strain affects wild birds more than previous outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza.”
All dead birds were collected and sent by DWR officials to the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Logan for testing. The samples were then sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, which confirmed bird flu had caused her demise.
At the end of August, a total of 44 birds and two red foxes were tested for bird flu in nine Utah counties.
Birds infected with the virus in Utah include raptors, waterfowl (specifically Canada geese), great-horned owls, hawks, swans, turkey vultures, grebes, gulls, and ducks.
Avian influenza viruses are highly contagious among birds and can cause rapid and high mortality in domestic birds, such as chickens, turkeys, and domestic ducks.
Waterfowl and shorebirds usually have few symptoms, but the virus can quickly kill raptors and litter and can spread to backyard poultry and domestic fowl through contaminated shoes or vehicles.
Songbirds are not usually affected by bird flu, so people should not have to remove their bird feeders unless they also have backyard chickens or domestic ducks that are susceptible to the virus. However, it is always recommended to clean bird feeders and baths regularly.
Although the current strain of bird flu presents a low risk to people, it was confirmed in at least one person in Colorado during this latest outbreak.
DWR offers tips for keeping hunters and their hounds safe while hunting waterfowl and highland birds:
- Do not harvest, hold, or eat any animal that appears sick.
- Field dress game animals in a well-ventilated area or outdoors.
- Avoid direct contact with the intestines.
- Wear rubber gloves or disposable rubber gloves while handling and cleaning birds. Wash your hands with soap and water, and thoroughly clean all knives, equipment, and surfaces that come into contact with birds. Disinfect using a 10% chlorine bleach solution.
- Keep your game birds cool, clean and dry.
- Do not eat, drink or smoke while cleaning the toy or handling animals.
- All game meat should be thoroughly cooked before eating (well cooked or 165°F).
- Dogs are susceptible to HPAI, but they often do not show clinical signs. Although the risk of infection is low, visit the DWR website to identify sites with active cases of avian influenza in wild birds and avoid those areas when using retrievers. Consult your local vet if your dog develops any respiratory symptoms.
- If you have domestic poultry, keep it away from the carcasses of wild birds that you have cut down, and do not handle poultry after handling wild birds.