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Bird Flu Alert for Utah's Backyard Poultry Owners, Hunters

08 January 2015

UTAH, US - Utah’s wildlife and agriculture agencies are advising hunters and people with backyard poultry flocks to be aware that two strains of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAI) have been detected in wild birds in Washington and Oregon.

No affected birds have been reported in Utah, so far, according the state's agriculture department.

Utah sits in a major migratory bird flight path so it is possible the disease could be transmitted to domestic birds as waterfowl migrate through Utah.

Dr Warren Hess, acting state veterinarian with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, said: “This discovery underscores the importance of biosecurity for backyard bird owners. We strongly encourage owners to take biosecurity measures to reduce the risk of their flocks being exposed to wild birds. We also advise bird owners to monitor their flock closely and to report sick birds to the Department of Agriculture and Food.”

Dr Hess stresses that there is no immediate public health concern. To date, the particular strains of avian influenza found in California, Washington and Oregon have not been implicated in human disease. The immediate concern is for domestic bird populations in Utah.

Dr Annette Roug, veterinarian with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), says avian influenza viruses occur naturally in wild birds, especially birds associated with aquatic habitats.

She explained: “Most of these viruses are low pathogenic and rarely cause clinical signs in the birds they infect. HPAI viruses, though, can lead to the death of wild birds.”

USDA states that all poultry, poultry products and wild birds are safe to eat as long as they are properly handled and cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dr Roug added: “As always, both wild bird meat and domestic poultry should be properly cooked. Hunters should take routine precautions when handling game, including wearing gloves when cleaning birds, washing their hands after cleaning, cleaning equipment and surfaces that come in contact with wild birds, and cooking wild birds thoroughly before eating the meat.”

Backyard flock owners can report sick birds to the Utah State Veterinarian’s office at 1-801-538-4910 or by calling the USDA toll free at 1-866-536-7593.

Wild bird deaths can be reported to the DWR at: 801-589-3448 or 801-538-4700.

Further Reading

You can visit the Avian Flu page by clicking here.

ThePoultrySite News Desk

Top image via Shutterstock

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