Avian flu detected in Mississippi following die-offs of geese

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The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks has received several reports of sick or dead birds over the past few weeks due to an apparent outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

The disease has been found in some wild birds throughout the state and has been a nuisance to the population. MDWFP staff is assisting federal wildlife workers with taking samples from some of these reported birds to submit for HPAI testing.

Positive cases are expected to rise throughout the winter as more birds continue to migrate south. Most of the reports so far have involved sick or dead snow and Ross’s geese, but other species have also been impacted.

Avian influenza is caused by an influenza type A virus that can infect poultry such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese, guinea fowl, and wild birds — especially waterfowl. The risk to humans from HPAI infections in wild birds is still considered to be low, but care should be taken to minimize risk.

Wildlife experts offer the following tips for waterfowl hunters in response to HPAI:

  • Only harvest birds that act and look healthy.
  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling harvested birds.
  • Process harvested birds outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.
  • Wear disposable gloves while processing harvested birds.
  • Wash hands, utensils, and work surfaces before and after processing birds, as well as before and after handling uncooked meat.
  • Keep harvested birds cool until processed, then refrigerate, freeze, or cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Sick or dead birds can be reported to the USDA Wildlife Services, MDWFP, and the Mississippi Board of Animal Health. Biologists and other agency staff will determine from reports if a follow-up or sample collection is warranted, based on the species affected and location.

Suggested methods for disposing of bird carcasses:

  • Dead birds should not be handled with bare hands. Maintain a physical barrier.
  • To collect or remove dead birds from the environment:
    • Pick up the bird with doubled plastic bags that have been turned inside out.
    • Then, invert and seal the doubled plastic bag with the bird inside.
  • To dispose of the bird:
    • Place the bag in the household garbage.
    • As an alternative, bury the dead bird (no bag) by handling the bird with a shovel.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.

More information about HPAI can be found here.

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