Avian flu confirmed in wild birds in 3 additional counties in Utah; DWR gives safety recommendations to waterfowl hunters
Salt Lake City — The first case of avian flu in wild birds in Utah was confirmed in April, and now the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has confirmed the virus has spread to wild birds in three additional counties, most likely due to the fall migration.
The virus had previously been confirmed in wild birds in six counties in Utah, including Cache, Weber, Salt Lake, Utah, Tooele and Carbon counties. Now, the virus has been confirmed in wild birds in three additional counties: Davis, Millard and Sanpete counties. The rate of positive highly pathogenic avian influenza detections decreased during the summer, but there has been a recent increase in detections and positive cases over the past couple of weeks.
Here is a breakdown of the most recently confirmed cases in Utah:
- Two dead Canada geese were found in West Point on Aug. 16
- An owl was found in Syracuse on Aug. 17
- A cinnamon teal duck was found in Woods Cross on Aug. 22
- Two eared grebes were also found in Woods Cross on Aug. 22
- Another goose was found dead in Layton on Aug. 23
- A Canada goose was found dead in Mt. Pleasant on Aug. 17
- A Canada goose was found dead near Delta on Aug. 22
The birds were all collected by DWR officials and sent to the Utah Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Logan for testing. Samples were then sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, which confirmed they had highly pathogenic avian influenza.
As of Aug. 30, 2022, a total of 44 birds and two red foxes have tested positive for avian influenza in nine counties. The birds infected with the virus in Utah include raptors and waterbirds, specifically Canada geese, great horned owls, hawks, pelicans, turkey vultures, grebes, gulls and ducks.
High pathogenic avian influenza viruses are very contagious among birds and can cause rapid and high mortality in domestic birds, such as chickens, turkeys and domestic ducks. These viruses occasionally kill wild birds, as well. The most common wild birds impacted by the virus are typically waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors and scavengers (which include birds like hawks, owls, ravens and vultures). There are usually few symptoms in waterfowl and shorebirds, but the virus can kill raptors and scavengers quickly. The virus is spread among birds through nasal and oral discharge, as well as fecal droppings. It can be spread to backyard poultry and domestic birds through contaminated shoes or vehicles.
Songbirds are not typically affected by avian flu, so people shouldn't have to remove their bird feeders unless they also have backyard chickens or domestic ducks, which are susceptible to the virus. However, it's always recommended to regularly clean bird feeders and baths.
Although the current strain of the avian flu presents a low risk to people, it has been confirmed in at least one person in Colorado during this most recent outbreak. Visit the CDC website for more information on keeping yourself safe.
"If anyone finds a group of five or more dead waterfowl or shorebirds — or any individual dead scavengers or raptors — they should report it to the nearest DWR office and absolutely make sure not to touch the birds or pick them up," DWR Veterinarian Ginger Stout said. "Report it to us, and we will come collect them for testing. We are continuing to monitor this virus in wild bird populations. This particular strain is affecting more wild birds than the previous outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza."
If you are planning to hunt waterfowl or upland game birds this fall, here are some tips to keep yourself and your hunting dog safe:
- Do not harvest, handle or eat any animal that appears sick.
- Field dress game animals in a well-ventilated area or outdoors.
- Avoid direct contact with the intestines.
- Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves while handling and cleaning birds. Wash your hands with soap and water, and thoroughly clean all knives, equipment and surfaces that come in contact with the birds. Disinfect using a 10% chlorine bleach solution.
- Keep your game birds cool, clean and dry.
- Do not eat, drink or smoke while cleaning game or handling animals.
- All game meat should be thoroughly cooked before eating (well-done or 165° F).
- Dogs are susceptible to HPAI, but don't often show clinical signs. Though the risk of infection is low, visit the DWR website to identify the locations with active cases of avian flu in wild birds and avoid those areas when using retrievers. Consult your local veterinarian if your dog exhibits any respiratory symptoms.
- If you have domestic poultry, keep them separated from the wild bird carcasses you have harvested, and do not handle poultry after handling wild birds.
The last outbreak of avian flu in the U.S. occurred in 2014–15, when highly pathogenic strains of avian influenza were detected in wild birds of the Pacific, Central and Mississippi flyways. During that outbreak, the virus was detected in two healthy ducks in Utah.
For more information about the current avian flu outbreak in wild birds, visit the DWR website. You can also view all the latest cases of avian flu in wild animals on the DWR website. To report any symptoms of avian flu in domestic birds, contact the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.