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Avian Influenza

Key Facts:

  • Birds in the United States follow one of four flyways when migrating. These flyways are the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central and Pacific. More information on these flyways can be found at migratory flyways.
  • Most of the state of Florida falls under the Atlantic flyway while the western most part of our panhandle lies under the Mississippi flyway.
  • Since December 2014, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has been found in three of these four avian migratory flyways: the Pacific, Central and Mississippi.   
  • The HPAI strains found in the US are not the same strains found in Asia and Africa. They are a reassortant variant of the Asian strains with naturally occurring North American strains.
  • To date, no human infections have been reported in the US from new HPAI strains.
  • You can assist by reporting dead birds so die-offs can be investigated.
  • Protect domestic or captive birds by preventing contact with wild birds (especially waterfowl).
  • Hunters and others handling birds should follow routine precautions listed below when handling wild birds.

Wild birds can carry a number of strains of the avian influenza viruses, most of which do not cause disease. However, transmission of low pathogenic strains (causes minimal signs of disease in domestic poultry) to poultry can result in changes in the virus and the formation of more highly pathogenic strains (can cause significant disease in domestic poultry).

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is investigating mortality events involving wild bird populations by monitoring and investigating reports of wild bird die-offs. FWC is working in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, University of Florida, National Wildlife Health Center, Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, Florida Department of Health and wildlife rehabilitators on this initiative.

We ask the public not to handle sick or dead birds, however, we strongly encourage the reporting of all sightings of dead birds to the bird mortality database. Wild birds involved in die-offs will be collected, examined, and tested for Avian Influenza, West Nile Virus, Exotic Newcastle's Disease, and/or other infectious agents of concern.

The HPAI virus is not easily transmissible from birds to people but health officials are concerned it could develop into another form that spreads readily from person to person, triggering a global disease outbreak known as a pandemic.
While it is extremely unlikely that hunters or people feeding birds could contract the HPAI virus from wild birds in Florida, the following common-sense precautions are always recommended to reduce the risk of contracting any disease from wildlife:

  • Do not harvest or handle wild birds that are obviously sick or found dead.
  • Wear rubber gloves while cleaning game or cleaning bird feeders.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke while cleaning game.
  • Wash hands with soap and water or alcohol wipes immediately after handling game or cleaning bird feeders.
  • Wash tools and work surfaces used to clean game birds with soap and water, then disinfect with a 10% bleach solution.
  • Separate raw meat, and anything it touches, from cooked or ready-to-eat foods to avoid contamination.
  • Cook game birds and poultry thoroughly-meat should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill disease organisms and parasites.

For more detailed guidelines concerning the handling of wild birds, please see the USDA Guidance for Hunters- Protect Yourself and Your Birds From Avian Influenza and the USGS National Wildlife Heath Center, Interim Guidelines for the Protection of Persons Handling Wild Birds With Reference to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1. We also advise that direct or indirect contact between domestic poultry and wild birds, especially waterfowl, be prevented.

More information on avian flu is available on the following links: 
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
FWS Avian Influenza

U.S. Department of Agriculture
USDA Avian Influenza

Florida Department of Health 
FDOH Avian Influenza

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
FDACS Avian Influenza

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
CDC Avian Influenza