What’s the Quack on the Bird Flu?

What is it, and why should you care?

cartoon bird with the bird flu

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cartoon bird with the bird flu

Jason Woods, General Editor

With the height of duck season coming up, it is crunch time for hunters to get their shots in before the season’s end. It is imperative that the birds are healthy for hunters to have successful hunts. However, there is a concern for the safety of the people handling the birds 

High Pathogenic Avian Influenza, (HPAI), also known as the Bird Flu, is appearing rampant throughout the United States, approaching record numbers before the end of the year. 

According to CDC’s U.S. Approaches Record Number of Avian Influenza Outbreaks in Wild Birds and Poultry,

 “Since early 2022, more than 49 million birds in 46 states have either died as a result of bird flu virus infection or have been culled (killed) due to exposure to infected birds. This number is nearing the 50.5 million birds in 21 states that were affected by the largest bird flu outbreak that occurred in 2015. Even so, the number of states affected in 2022 is already more than double the number of states that were affected in 2015.”

What this means is that even though it has not killed as many birds as it did in 2015, it is still nearing that number along with affecting over twice the amount of states that were affected in 2015. With this virus pummeling its way through even more states, it shows how many more bird farmers, hunters, and enthusiasts alike will feel the wrath of the all-but-preventable disease. 

Looking past the birds, evidence suggests that the birds that are affected by HPAI do not pose as much of a threat to humans if they follow safe food-handling processes. With the concern pointed away from humans, it’s next in line to find out how it affects man’s best friend. However, with the ill-intent of the virus towards birds, it is found to hardly affect our furry companions. 

The USDA provides beneficial facts and information to stay safe and protected from the Bird Flu:

“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-to-eat foods. Cook game meat thoroughly. Poultry should reach an internal temperature of 165 °F to kill disease organisms and parasites.”

While it may be common sense to not eat anything while handling a dead animal, it needs to be completely clarified for some people in order to keep them safe. The safety of humankind supersedes their understanding of general food safety, so it should be reiterated and nailed into the brains of everyone who deals with any type of bird.

Sources and relevant links:

CDC article about the high numbers of Avian Influenza this year: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/spotlights/2022-2023/nearing-record-number-avian-influenza.htm

USDA fact sheet about staying safe from HPAI: