Wyoming Game and Fish Asks for Assistance to Stop Virus

Wyoming Game and Fish is asking residents to report signs of the deadly HPAI virus in domestic and wild birds and think about their safety before eating birds they harvest this fall.

Birds in Wyoming test positive again for highly pathogenic avian influenza. After a pause in HPAI’s confirmation of bird deaths over the summer, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Wildlife Health Laboratory in Laramie this month confirmed positive results in a blue-winged teal and a great horned owl.

The current outbreak was first detected in March 2022 in Wyoming. A flock of birds in Johnson County have tested positive for the deadly virus.

“As bird hunting season either continues or is rapidly approaching and migratory birds are beginning to move south, we are asking the public to be on the lookout for dead birds and to be aware of the disease,” said Jessica Jennings-Gaines, Game and Fish Specialist wildlife diseases.

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Wyoming Game and Fish continues to monitor HPAI. The department has also created an online reporting tool to make it easier for the public to notify department staff.

The lab asks the public to follow these criteria when reporting birds suspected of being infected with HPAI:

  • Any sage grouse, raptor or owl found dead or showing neurological signs.
  • Only small birds such as songbirds, sparrows, starlings, pigeons, etc. where a group of five or more have been found dead or show neurological signs.
    • The birds must show signs within a short period of time – three to four days with symptoms would be remarkable.
  • All suspect birds in counties or species where HPAI has not been documented as of September 1.
    • An online map shows where the virus was detected and confirmed.
  • When a member of the public has concerns about HPAI exposure and requests avian influenza virus testing.
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Wyoming had not verified a case of HPAI since June 9 and tested 25 samples over the summer months, all of which came back negative. In August, HPAI was detected in wild birds in 13 states, including Colorado and Utah.

Additionally, Game and Fish urges hunters who are in the field and handling game meat to take extra precautions.

These recommendations come from the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s general safety guidelines for hunters who handle wildlife and their tissues:

  • Do not touch or eat sick game.
  • Begin and prepare the game outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.
  • Wear rubber or disposable nitrile gloves when handling or cleaning game.
  • After handling game, wash hands thoroughly with soap or sanitizer and clean knives, equipment and surfaces that come in contact with game.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke when handling animals.
  • Do not feed sick/found dead carcasses/tissues to pets such as dogs and cats.
  • All game should be thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F before consumption.
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HPAI can be transmitted from birds to humans, and the mortality rate for humans with the virus is 60%. But as of August 10, 2012, the World Health Organization reports that only 59 people in 12 countries have died from the virus.

Stopping the spread of HPAI is essential to saving Wyoming’s bird populations, and public support is vital in this ongoing effort.

“HPAI surveillance relies on the help of Wyoming citizens, and we greatly appreciate that help,” said Jennings-Gaines.

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