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Avian flu confirmed; waterfowl hunters urged to exercise caution

(file photo)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Wildlife managers have confirmed several reports of avian flu in southern Wyoming, prompting the issuance of safe-handling guidelines for hunters with waterfowl season in full swing. 

Avian flu, or Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, is a highly contagious, zoonotic disease impacting migrating waterfowl in the Central Flyway, Game and Fish says. Waterfowl mortalities due to the disease have been documented in the Torrington and Wheatland areas.

Per Game and Fish, avian flu can infect humans, and hunters in the field who handle game meat need to take the following precautions to ensure their safety:

  • Only harvest and handle game that appears healthy.
  • Field dress and prepare game outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.
  • Wear rubber or disposable nitrile gloves while handling or cleaning game.
  • When done handling game, wash hands thoroughly with soap or disinfectant and clean knives, equipment, and surfaces that come in contact with game.
  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling animals.
  • Do not feed sick/found dead carcasses or tissues to domestic animals like dogs and cats.
  • All game should be thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees before being consumed. 

If exposure is suspected, residents should monitor for illness for 10 days. Questions regarding human exposure can be directed to the Wyoming Department of Health, Game and Fish says. 

Wildlife managers are continually learning more about avian flu and ask anyone who encounters clusters of three or more waterfowl species or any single raptor, grouse or wild turkey dead or exhibiting signs of neurological impairment to contact their regional office, per Game and Fish.

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