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Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza

What is it?

Avian influenza, or “bird flu,” is a respiratory disease of birds caused by influenza A viruses. Wild birds, such as ducks, gulls, and shorebirds, can carry and spread these viruses but may show no signs of illness. However, avian influenza can kill domestic poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese).

In the outbreak in 2021-22, infection resulting in neurological symptoms and death were reported in eagles and other birds of prey, vultures, and young foxes.

Information for Hunters

Although highly pathogenic avian influenza is primarily a poultry disease, wild birds appear to play some role in its spread. Risk to hunters appears low, but there is no guarantee that there is no risk.

When Dressing Game Birds

• Always wear disposable gloves when handling or cleaning game and wash hands with soap and water

immediately afterward. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

• Dress game birds in the field whenever possible.

• If you can’t dress birds in the field, clean them in a location away from poultry and other birds.

• Keep a separate pair of shoes to wear only in your game cleaning area. If this is not possible, wear rubber footwear and clean and disinfect your shoes before entering or leaving the area.

• Use dedicated tools for cleaning game, whether in the field or at home. Do not use those tools around

poultry or pet birds.

• Double bag the offal and feathers. Tie the inner bag, take off your gloves, and leave them in the outer bag before tying it closed. Then wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.

Protecting Yourself

Although avian influenza viruses rarely infect people, you should still protect yourself. To reduce your risk:

• Do not eat, drink, or put anything in your mouth while cleaning or handling game.

• Avoid cross-contamination. Keep uncooked game in a separate container, away from cooked or ready-toeat foods.

• Cook game meat thoroughly. Poultry should reach an internal temperature of 165 °F to kill disease organisms and parasites

What do you do if you see a group of sick or dead birds?

If you find sick or dead birds, do not handle them. Contact the NJ DEP Fish and Wildlife hotline at 1-877-WARNDEP.

For additional information on avian influenza:

USDA APHIS | Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)

USDA APHIS | 2022 Detections of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza

USDA APHIS | Avian Influenza and Wild Birds

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Department of Environmental Protection
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Last Update: February 27th, 2023