The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and Game Commission are urging hunters to remain vigilant during waterfowl season. Hunters are urged to follow a series of tips and biosecurity measures to reduce the risk of spreading infection of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).
Although HPAI infection in wild animals has been historically rare, there were cases of infection in wild populations in the spring outbreak. Signs that hunters should look for include: sudden death, marked loss of appetite, reduced feed consumption, cessation of normal flock vocalization, drops in egg production, depression, coughing, nasal and ocular discharge, swollen face, cyanosis of comb/wattles, diarrhea (often green in color), and nervous signs such as paralysis. Infected ducks are typically asymptomatic, but geese are more likely to have visible symptoms.
Hunters are urged to follow these tips when harvesting birds: dress wild birds in the field when possible, do not eat, drink or smoke while cleaning, wear rubber gloves, wash hands with soap and water, wash all tools and work surfaces, then disinfect. Further, hunters are encouraged to follow some biosecurity measures, including harvesting or handling obviously sick birds or those found dead, avoid entering a poultry premises for at least 72 hours after hunting, as well as keeping hunting gear off of poultry premises.
Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough states that hunters are very much on the frontline when it comes to protecting Pennsylvania from HPAI. “Hunters need to educate themselves to know the clinical signs of HPAI, and employ safe practices in handling wild birds they harvest.”