Officials announced last week that a duck killed by a hunter in Oregon is the first wild bird in the state to test positive for avian influenza.
Sampling of wild birds began in Oregon shortly after the disease had shown up amongst wild and captive birds in Washington. The duck is the first wild bird in the state to test positive for avian influenza, according to a press release from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Tests reveal the strain of avian influenza, known as H5N2, poses no threat to humans and is only communicable between birds. The disease is not news to wildlife biologists, after cases of H5N2 have been documented in California and Utah. Outbreaks of a similar strain, H5N8, have been documented in parts of Europe and Asia.
ODFW is concerned about the potential communication of the disease to birds of prey and domestic fowl.
The impact on migratory birds is a concern for biologists: “In the coming months these birds will migrate back to nesting areas to the north, potentially spreading the virus to new areas. Wild birds can pass the influenza virus to their species or other bird species inhabiting shared wetlands or through predator and prey interactions.”
Duck and goose season is winding down in much of the western United States, but the disease could see a resurgence when the birds migrate north again. Alaska has seen no documented cases of either H5N2 or H5N8, though officials are urging hunters to be aware of the disease’s potential. Among their recommendations:
- Do not handle or eat obviously sick game.
- Wear rubber or latex gloves while handling and cleaning game, and wash your hands.
- Thoroughly clean knives, equipment and surfaces that come into contact with game.
- Do not eat, drink or smoke while handling animals.
- Cook all game to a temperature of at least 165 degrees.
While this news should not dampen your enjoyment of the final weekend of duck season, it serves as a reminder that ducks are wild game and often carriers of lice or other unwelcome guests.