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"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms...disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to  commit crimes... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man." -Thomas Jefferson, quoting Cesare Beccaria.

 

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Avian Flu Poses No Threat to Waterfowl Hunters or Birding Enthusiasts in Kentucky

Frankfort, KY - Recent outbreaks of avian flu are causing worldwide concern, but state wildlife officials say problems with wild waterfowl transmitting the disease to Kentucky hunters and bird enthusiasts are extremely unlikely.

The first segment of waterfowl season in the Bluegrass State opens with the Thanksgiving holidays.

“Avian influenza viruses do occur naturally in wild birds (particularly waterfowl), with most causing little or no threat to the health of birds or people,” said Danny Watson, wildlife disease specialist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR).

However, the H5N1 virus that has been in the news recently is an especially virulent and contagious strain, first reported in domestic poultry in Asia. It has since spread to some species of wild, migratory waterbirds in Asia and Eastern Europe. In Asia, it has caused illness in 116 people and accounted for 61 deaths.

Almost all human cases to date have been associated with direct exposure to infected domestic poultry, the eating of uncooked poultry, or contact with the saliva, nasal discharge or feces of infected poultry. There have been no recorded instances of transmission from wild birds to humans, nor has avian flu been detected in humans, wild birds or poultry in North America.

The KDFWR also advises that observation of dead wild birds does not necessarily indicate the arrival of the virus. Bird deaths can be caused by a variety of diseases, events (e.g., accidental contamination of water), or environmental factors.

As a general rule to help prevent the spread of wildlife diseases, the KDFWR recommends that people:

Observe wildlife from a distance. This protects you from possible exposure to pathogens and minimizes disturbance to the animals.

Avoid touching wildlife. If you do come into contact with wildlife, do not rub your eyes, eat, drink, or smoke before washing your hands with soap and water.

Not pick up diseased or dead wildlife unless it is absolutely necessary. Use disposable latex or rubber gloves. Place dead wildlife in a sealed container or bag, and then place that container or bag into another bag and seal it. Report unusual findings to the KDFWR to determine if testing will be necessary. You may be directed to dispose of the dead animal in your trash.

Clean bird feeders regularly. There is no evidence that feeding wild birds plays a role in the spread of avian flu, but cleaning bird feeders regularly limits the spread of other diseases between birds and other animals using the feeder.

Hunters should follow routine precautions when handling game:

Do not handle or eat game that is visibly sick or unhealthy.

Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves while handling and cleaning game, wash hands, and thoroughly clean knives, equipment and surfaces that come in contact with game.

Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling harvested game.

All game should be thoroughly cooked (i.e., well done or 160°F internal temperature).

Thoroughly washing hands with soap and water (or with alcohol-based hand products if the hands are not visibly soiled) is a very effective method for inactivating influenza viruses, including the highly pathogenic avian influenza. These viruses are also inactivated with many common disinfectants such as detergents, 10% household bleach, alcohol, or other commercial disinfectants. The virus is more difficult to inactivate in organic material such as feces or soil.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has made testing for Avian Influenza a routine part of its investigations in reported dead bird cases. To report dead birds contact the agency’s help center at 1-800-858-1549, weekdays 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern.

For more information about avian influenza and wildlife diseases:

USGS - National Wildlife Health Center: http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/research/avian_influenza/avian_influenza.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/

World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/en/

APHIS-USDA: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/lpa/pubs/fsheet_faq_notice/fs_ahavianflu.html

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Memorandum 8/25/2005: http://www.fws.gov/policy/m0271.html

USGS-NWHC: Field Manual of Wildlife Diseases: http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/pub_metadata/field_manual/field_manual.html

Ducks Unlimited Canada Article: Invisible threat: the impacts of disease on wild duck populations: http://www.ducks.ca/aboutduc/news/conservator/261/bot1.html