US - Agriculture officials in Pennsylvania are urging waterfowl bird hunters to be on the lookout for signs of highly pathogenic avian influenza.
Pennsylvania was not affected by the outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza earlier in the year, the state Department of Agriculture and the Game Commission want hunters to be aware of the signs, to help protect farms from the disease.
“We understand the importance of hunting here in Pennsylvania and don’t want to discourage anyone from enjoying this recreational pastime,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.
“However, we want hunters to be aware of the signs of HPAI. If any hunters were to come in contact with an infected bird, we’d want them to know the signs to minimise the spread of the virus.”
The Department said that HPAI symptoms are rarer in wild birds than in poultry, but that the H5 HPAI virus strains that circulated in North American wild and domestic birds last winter and spring did cause disease in certain species of waterfowl and raptors. Geese are more likely to show signs of disease than ducks.
The officials asked hunters to maintain hygiene by washing and food safety measures, keeping hunted birds away from pet birds, keeping to biosecurity measures when visiting poultry farms and managing waste appropriately.
“The threat of this virus is very real, and the consequences could be devastating to our state. It is important for everyone to help us keep Pennsylvania safe,” Mr Redding reiterated.
Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said HPAI poses threats to both domestic poultry and wild birds, meaning the more than 200,000 ring-necked pheasants raised each year for release on public hunting grounds also are at risk if the virus is introduced into Pennsylvania.
“Because of the time they spend in the field, observing and hunting migratory birds and other wildlife, hunters very much are on the front lines when it comes to protecting Pennsylvania from high path avian influenza,” Mr Hough explained. “We all remain hopeful the virus won’t show up here, but if it does, we are prepared to react and react quickly.
“Hunters need to educate themselves to know the clinical signs of HPAI, and employ safe practices in handling wild birds they harvest,” Mr Hough said. “We all are in this together.”ThePoultrySite News Desk