Wyoming Game and Fish Asks for Assistance to Stop Virus

Wyoming Game and Fish Asks for Public Assistance to Stop Deadly Avian Virus

Written by on September 20, 2022

Wyoming Game and Fish asks residents to report signs of the deadly virus H.P.A.I. in domestic and wild birds and think of their safety before eating any birds they harvest this autumn.

Birds in Wyoming are again testing positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza. After a hiatus from confirming any bird deaths from H.P.A.I. over the summer, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Wildlife Health Laboratory in Laramie confirmed positives in a blue-winged teal and a great horned owl this month.

The current outbreak was first detected in Wyoming in March 2022. A flock of birds in Johnson County tested positive for the deadly virus.

“With bird hunting seasons either ongoing or rapidly approaching, and as migrating birds start to head south, we are asking the public to keep an eye out for dead birds and be aware of the disease,” said Jessica Jennings-Gaines, Game and Fish wildlife disease specialist.

Wyoming Game and Fish is continuing surveillance of H.P.A.I. The department has also created an online reporting tool to allow the public to more easily alert department staff.

The lab asks the public to follow these criteria when reporting birds suspicious for H.P.A.I. infection:

  • Any sage grouse, raptor, or owl found dead or exhibiting neurologic signs.
  • Only small ,birds such as songbirds, sparrows, starlings, pigeons, etc., where a group of five or more have been found dead or exhibiting neurologic signs.
    • The birds must be exhibiting signs within a short period — three to four days of symptoms would be notable.
  • Any suspected birds in counties or species where H.P.A.I. has not been documented since Sept. 1.
    • An online map shows where the virus has been detected and confirmed.
  • If there is a concern of H.P.A.I. exposure to a member of the public, and they are requesting avian influenza virus testing.

Wyoming hadn’t verified an H.P.A.I. case since June 9, testing 25 samples over the summer months that all came back negative. In August, H.P.A.I. was detected in wild birds in 13 states, including Colorado and Utah.

Furthermore, Game and Fish urges hunters who are in the field and handle game meat to take specific precautions.

These recommendations come from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s general safety guidelines for hunters handling wildlife and their tissues:

  • Do not handle or eat sick game.
  • Field dress and prepare game outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.
  • Wear rubber or disposable nitrile gloves while handling or cleaning game.
  • When done handling game, wash hands thoroughly with soap or disinfectant and clean knives, equipment, and surfaces that come in contact with game.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke while handling animals.
  • Do not feed sick/found dead carcasses/tissues to domestic animals — such as dogs and cats.
  • All game should be thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F before being consumed.

H.P.A.I. can be transmitted from birds to humans, and the mortality rate for humans with the virus is 60%. But – as of Aug. 10, 2012 – the World Health Organization reports only 59 people in twelve countries have died from the virus.

Stopping the spread of H.P.A.I. is essential to save Wyoming’s bird populations, and public assistance is critical in this ongoing effort.

“H.P.A.I. surveillance is dependant on the help of Wyoming’s citizens, and we greatly appreciate that help,” Jennings-Gaines said.”

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