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Hunters: Be Aware of Avian Influenza

Duck Hunting
Guy Huntley
The Indiana DNR is asking hunters to report signs of avian influenza — such as "mortality events" where a large number of birds are found deceased at once.

H5N1 has been found in Dubois and Marion Counties ; can transfer from wild waterfowl to domestic poultry facilities without precautions

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is asking waterfowl hunters to be aware of the avian influenza outbreak this hunting season.

The H5N1 strain of avian influenza has been found in various places throughout the state, including Dubois and Marion Counties.

DNR is asking hunters to be aware of any large “mortality events” — meaning places where a large number of birds have perished.

DNR Wildlife Health biologist Michelle Benavitez Westrich said hunting seasons tend to correspond with migratory bird seasons.

“And when that happens, these birds can move the virus across the landscape,” she said. “So we were advising hunters to one, keep a lookout for mortality events because if they see too-large a number of birds that are dead, we would like to investigate that.”

They also want to stop the spread of H5N1 from the wild birds, to domestic poultry.

“So for hunters that have backyard poultry, they need to be more aware of the biosecurity steps they could take to prevent contaminating their domestic bird facility at home.”

She advises hunters to refer to the USDA “Defend the Flock” program. She says mortality events can be reported at on.in.gov/sickwildlife.

Indiana and much of the US have been in the midst of this outbreak for nearly one year. This affects domestic and wild birds and in one case, it crossed over to a human.

Benavitez Westrich said avian influenza affects birds in a similar way the flu affects humans.

“It will typically cause a fever," she said. "And ultimately, if not treated, which there are no treatments with wild birds, it could lead to fatality, depending on how severe the strain is.”

She said they started noticing this strain late last year as it seemed to cross over from wild waterfowl to domestic poultry facilities. In one case, a human was infected with it.

“But it's not common,” she said. “And it's typically associated with people that process a large number of birds. So these are normally people that just deal with birds repetitively.”

In this zone, ducks, coots and mergansers can be hunted starting in November. Several other bird species are legal to hunt currently.

Duck_JRMartin Photography.jpg
JR Martin Photography
Hunters can transfer H5N1 from wild birds to domestic poultry if they don't take proper precautions.

What is the status of avian influenza?

Three subtypes have been detected in the United States, H5N1, H5N2, and H5N8:

  • H5N1 detected in the United States is a subtype with a reassortment of genes from HPAI H5 Eurasian viruses and LPAI viruses from North America. This U.S. subtype is not known to cause human illness.
  • H5N2 was first detected in British Columbia, Canada in December 2014. This H5N2 is a reassortment of Eurasian H5 and North American N2 viruses.
  • H5N8 is a Eurasian subtype first detected on the West Coast in wild birds in December 2014. A new variation of this subtype was detected in Dubois County, Indiana in January 2016.

Source: Indiana DNR