SAINT ANTONY – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is asking hunters, wildlife rehabilitators and the public, in general, to be cautious when handling birds to help reduce the spread of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, or HPIA.
TPWD said National Veterinary Services Laboratories recently confirmed a case of the virus among a backyard poultry flock in Dallas County. The discovery was made after a nationwide outbreak earlier this year led to the deaths of more than 40 million chickens and turkeys.
In Texas, the virus was previously detected in a bald eagle and horned owl.
As waterbirds and waterfowl migrate for the fall, TPWD says HPIA is likely circulating among wild birds.
The virus, which has been detected in nearly every US state, is highly contagious and causes birds to experience diarrhea, incoordination/stumbling, lethargy, coughing and sneezing and even sudden death, though some may not show symptoms.
It is transmitted through an infected bird’s saliva, mucous and feces, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The transmission risk from wildlife to humans is low, but humans can become infected if the virus is inhaled or comes into contact with a person’s mouth, nose or eyes.
“The virus may spread in a variety of ways, including through contact with infected wild and domestic birds as well as by contaminated equipment, clothing and shoes of caretakers,” a news release from TPWD states.
TPWD says wildlife organizations should properly screen and quarantine the wild birds they take in.
A spokesperson for the San Antonio Zoo said it is following recommendations from the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on biosecurity procedures.
The virus has not been detected at the zoo, and it is prepared to move the birds indoors if needed.
“At this time, San Antonio Zoo is working with the Veterinarian for the State of Texas and other Texas zoological facilities to monitor and track HPAI cases and its proximity to San Antonio Zoo,” the spokesperson said.
TPWD also said that people should limit their contact with wild birds.
Hunters should use gloves when processing their harvests, correctly dispose of carcasses and disinfect tools with bleach. They should also cook their poultry at a “proper” temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit and avoid consuming sick birds, TPWD says.
People who believe they came into contact with an HPIA-positive bird should call the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The CDC states that though rare, bird flu-positive humans have shown a range of symptoms, from none at all to severe illnesses that resulted in death.
“Human infections with bird flu viruses have occurred most often after unprotected contact with infected birds or surfaces contaminated with bird flu viruses,” the CDC states. “However, some infections have been identified where direct contact with infected birds or their environment was not known to have occurred.”
To report a possibly infected bird or flock, contact the nearest TPWD wildlife biologist or the Texas Animal Health Commission Region Office.
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