OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – If you have seen the carcasses of birds in the outdoors, you are not alone.
Officials say the highly pathogenic avian influenza is being found in wild birds across the nation, including Oklahoma.
HPAI has been confirmed in hunter-harvested birds this fall in Oklahoma.
Experts say shorebirds, waterfowl, and raptors are the primary wild birds that will be affected. However, they warn the virus could pose a serious threat to domestic poultry production.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is urging hunters to take precautions to help protect domestic and industrial poultry flocks.
Officials stress that infected wild birds may show no signs of being sick. However, they may show abnormal behavior like not flying when startled.
HPAI can be transmitted via hunting equipment, clothing, and bird carcasses.
Vehicle tires can also transfer the virus. Anyone who has driven in an area where HPAI is suspected should consider spraying their vehicle’s tires and undercarriage.
State officials say if you see 12 or more dead or sick birds in one area, you should report it to the Oklahoma office of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Reports can be made by calling (405) 522-6141.
Anyone who finds sick or dead birds should minimize contact with them. Do not touch them with bare hands. When disposing of dead birds suspected to be diseased, wear impermeable gloves or use doubled plastic bags to collect the carcass, tie the bag closed, and put it in the garbage can. Discard any gloves in the garbage, and wash hands with soap and water after handling. While it is possible for HPAI to be transmitted to people, it’s not likely, officials said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends the following to hunters when handling wild game to prevent possible transmission of HPAI or other potential pathogens and lessen the risk of further spreading the virus in the environment:
- Do not handle or eat sick game.
- Field dress and prepare game outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.
- Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves while handling and cleaning game.
- When finished handling game, wash hands thoroughly with soap or disinfectant.
- Clean knives, equipment, and surfaces that come into contact with game.
- Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling wild or domestic animals.
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