RALEIGH, N.C. (Jan. 19, 2022) — Confirmation that a wild duck (Northern shoveler) harvested by a hunter in Hyde County tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has prompted biologists at the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to remind hunters to follow best practices when handling waterfowl after harvest.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced the positive detection to stakeholders yesterday, along with the announcement of a second wild duck confirmed to have HPAI in Colleton County, South Carolina since Jan. 14. All three findings are H5N1 HPAI. These are the first wild birds in the United States to have Eurasian H5 HPAI since 2016. The positive samples were collected by USDA as part of their ongoing surveillance program for early detection of HPAI in collaboration with state wildlife agencies. The North Carolina positive sample was collected on Dec. 30, 2021.
These positive detections in wild waterfowl are not unexpected, as they can be infected with HPAI and show no signs of illness. They can then carry the disease to new areas through fecal material or oral discharges when migrating. For updates on any additional positive detections of HPAI, visit the USDA APHIS website.
This type of HPAI virus is considered a low risk to people according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, but it can be dangerous to other birds, including commercial and backyard flocks of poultry. Officials at the Wildlife Commission recommend that hunters take these extra precautions offered by the USDA to protect themselves:
“If someone comes across a mortality event involving five or more waterbirds or waterfowl, or a mortality event of any size for raptors or avian scavengers, including crows, ravens and gulls, we want to know about them,” stated Joe Fuller, wildlife biologist with the Wildlife Commission. “We are also interested in morbidity events involving any number of those same bird species that are observed with clinical signs consistent with neurological impairment, like swimming in circles, head tilt and lack of coordination.”
The public is encouraged to direct wild bird reports as described by Fuller to the NC Wildlife Helpline at 866-318-2401, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., or email HWI@ncwildlife.org.
Sick or dying captive birds should be reported to your local veterinarian, the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Science Veterinary Division, 919-707-3250, or the N.C. Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System, 919-733-3986. For more information on HPAI, visit the NCDA&CS website.
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