California Department of Fish and Wildlife

What Hunters Should Know About Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can humans catch avian influenza from wild birds?
A: One incident of humans contracting avian influenza from wild birds has been documented. In this case, young women from a village in Asia were defeathering wild swans which had died from the virus. The direct, intense contact with the blood, secretions and feces facilitated the illnesses.

Q: How could HPAI H5N1 enter North America?
A: HPAI H5N1 is most likely to enter through the movement of infected poultry, importation of either legally or illegally of contaminated birds or bird products, or migratory waterfowl and shorebirds.

Q: Should bird hunters be concerned about HPAI H5N1?
A: Because HPAI H5N1 has not arrived in North America, hunters do not need to be overly concerned at the present time about AI, but all hunters should practice good hygiene in the field when working with any wild bird or mammal. Good hygiene, proper preparation and cooking procedures will prevent infection from a variety of germs and viruses, like AI.

Q: How can I protect myself from potential bird diseases while hunting?
A: The following suggestions are precautions that hunters should follow normally when hunting:

  • Do not handle birds that are obviously sick.
  • Keep your game birds cool, clean, and dry.
  • Place birds in washable container for transport (ice chest etc. that can be sanitized)
  • Wash hands before eating, smoking, drinking (use hand sanitizer in duck blinds)
  • Use rubber gloves when cleaning game.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol wipes after dressing birds.
  • Clean all tools and surfaces immediately afterward; use hot soapy water, then disinfect with a 10 percent chlorine bleach solution.
  • Use disposable gloves during field prep, cleanable work space, proper disposal of feathers/innards.
  • Cook game meat thoroughly (155-165°F) to kill disease organisms.
  • Clean clothes, boots, back of truck, bird prep station well
  • Cook all wild birds well, using proper sanitary practices in the kitchen (wash counters and cookware thoroughly) and when handling the raw meat

Q: Are bird hunting dogs at risk of getting HPAI H5N1?
A: Dogs exposed to avian influenza have developed antibodies. They do not seem to become ill, but contact with dog saliva and feces should be minimized. Wash hands frequently and avoid letting the dog lick hands or faces.

Monitoring for Avian Influenza Viruses in California Birds

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is in partnership with the University of California, Davis Wildlife Health Center; the California De-partment of Food and Agriculture; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and the California Depart-ment of Health Services to monitor for avian influenza viruses in wild birds. During 2005/2006, hundreds of waterfowl and shorebirds will be tested for avian influenza virus in California. Field sampling efforts will be integrated with surveillance programs throughout the U.S. and Canada.

For more information about Avian Influenza

For human health information:

National Centers for Disease Control and Pre-vention (CDC)

World Health Organization

For updates on avian influenza monitoring in wild birds in California:

Wildlife Health Center, University of California

National Wildlife Health Center

Who to call about sick or dead birds:

Domestically reared birds - call the California Department of Food and Agriculture: 1-800-491-1899

Sick or dead birds - call the Dead Bird Hotline: 1-877-968-2473