Hunters warned to take precautions against bird flu

Published 1:00 pm Friday, October 21, 2022

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As migratory bird hunting season begins, game hunters are urged to take precautions against spreading the highly pathogenic avian influenza.

The risk of HPAI is still prevalent, evidenced by a recent announcement by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services about a case detected in a Southern Virginia backyard flock. Officials continue to advise poultry hobbyists, commercial producers and game hunters to review their biosecurity practices.

While this latest affected flock consisted of backyard pet birds, earlier this year avian flu was detected in two hunter-harvested wild waterfowls in Henrico County and a third waterfowl from Virginia Beach.

And since game bird hunting season is underway in Virginia, hunters should stay vigilant.

Hunters who encounter infected waterfowl or contaminated feces can inadvertently spread the HPAI to poultry, cautioned Tony Banks, senior assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

“Wild waterfowl are primary carriers of this strain of avian influenza, which is highly pathogenic and can lead to very high mortality in domestic poultry,” he said. “Evidence suggests wildfowl are responsible for introducing HPAI to at least 85% of the infected flocks, and it’s important that everyone in proximity to wild and domestic birds follow proper biosecurity and sanitation procedures.”

The virus can live for a long time in feces and other organic materials, and is easily transmitted through contaminated items, like shoes, clothing and hunting equipment. To prevent the spread, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources recommends that hunters dress game birds in the field whenever possible and always wear rubber gloves.