Avian Influenza

Key Facts:

  • The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will continue to monitor for avian influenza in free ranging birds.
  • Report dead birds at MyFWC.com/bird so die-offs can be investigated. For assistance in indentifying birds you are reporting, view our bird identification page.
  • To date, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 has not been detected in humans, poultry, or wild birds in the U.S nor the entire western hemisphere.
  • Protect domestic or captive birds by preventing contact with wild birds (especially waterfowl).
  • Hunters and others handling birds should follow routine precautions listed below when handling wild birds.

Wild birds can carry a number of avian influenza viruses, most of which do not cause disease. However, transmission of low pathogenic strains (causes minimal signs of disease in domestic poultry) to poultry can result in changes in the virus and the formation of more highly pathogenic strains (can cause significant disease in domestic poultry). Recently a Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 (HPAI H5N1) has infected domestic poultry, humans, and wild birds in Asia, Indonesia, Europe and Africa. There is concern that migratory wild birds could spread the disease to other continents; however, it is important to note that HPAI H5N1 has not been detected in the western hemisphere.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is conducting AI surveillance in wild bird populations by monitoring and investigating reports of wild bird die-offs.  FWC is working in cooperation with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, University of Florida, National Wildlife Health Center, Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, Florida Department of Health and wildlife rehabilitators on this surveillance initiative.  We ask the public not to handle sick or dead birds, however, we strongly encourage the reporting of all sightings of dead birds to the bird mortality database at MyFWC.com/bird. Wild birds involved in die-offs will be collected, examined, and tested for Avian Influenza, West Nile Virus, Exotic Newcastle's Disease, and/or other infectious agents of concern.  FWC is also cooperating with the HPAI Early Detection Working Group and Atlantic Flyway Council to potentially monitor for AI in targeted species of migratory birds.  This may include sampling of certain species at hunter check stations.  Surveillance may also involve the sampling of live-captured birds handled as part of ongoing research projects.

The HPAI H5N1 virus is not easily transmissible from birds to people but health officials are concerned it could develop into another form that spreads readily from person to person, triggering a global disease outbreak known as a pandemic.

While it is extremely unlikely that hunters or people feeding birds could contract HPAI H5N1 from wild birds in Florida, the following common-sense precautions are always recommended to reduce the risk of contracting any disease from wildlife:

  • Do not harvest or handle wild birds that are obviously sick or found dead.
  • Wear rubber gloves while cleaning game or cleaning bird feeders.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke while cleaning game.
  • Wash hands with soap and water or alcohol wipes immediately after handling game or cleaning bird feeders.
  • Wash tools and work surfaces used to clean game birds with soap and water, then disinfect with a 10% bleach solution.
  • Separate raw meat, and anything it touches, from cooked or ready-to-eat foods to avoid contamination.
  • Cook game birds thoroughly-meat should reach an internal temperature of 155 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill disease organisms and parasites.

For more detailed guidelines concerning the handling of wild birds, please see the USGS National Wildlife Heath Center, Interim Guidelines for the Protection of Persons Handling Wild Birds With Reference to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1( http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/disease_information/avian_influenza/index.jsp).

We also advise that direct or indirect contact between domestic poultry and wild birds, especially waterfowl, be prevented.

More information on avian flu is available on the following links:

The official U.S. government Web site for information on pandemic flu and avian influenza. http://www.pandemicflu.gov/general/#avian

Frequently asked questions about Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Virus H5N1 and wild birds (SCWDS)

USGS National Wildlife Heath Center

Interim Guidelines for the Protection of Persons Handling Wild Birds With Reference to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Florida Department of Health http://www.doh.state.fl.us/rw_Bulletins/panfluplanindex.html

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Bird Mortality Database

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