Officials confirm cases of bird flu in Utah waterfowl

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DAVIS COUNTY, Utah – Health officials have confirmed cases of bird flu in Utah waterfowl.

The National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed avian influenza virus strain H5N8 in an American widgeon duck on Jan. 9 in Davis County.

Authorities said other wild birds from the area near the Great Salt Lake in Davis County are also undergoing tests.

According to officials, there is no immediate public health concern

“This discovery of avian influenza in a wild bird is not unexpected, considering that Utah sits in a major migratory bird flight path,” Dr. Warren Hess said, Acting State Veterinarian with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.  “The possibility of the disease being transmitted to domestic backyard bird flocks remains high and we advise bird owners to take extra biosecurity measures to protect their flocks.”

Health officials said High Pathogenic Avian Influenza has recently been found in wild or domestic birds in California, Oregon and Washington.

The avian influenza strains involved have not been implicated in any human infection to date, health officials said.

The USDA states that all poultry, poultry products and wild birds are safe to eat as long as they are properly handled and cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit .

The virus has not been found in commercial poultry anywhere in the US.

Officials said surveillance for avian influenza is ongoing in commercial poultry operations, live bird markets and in migratory wild bird populations.

The UDAF is advising commercial poultry growers and backyard flock owners to be vigilant with biosecurity measures and surveillance.

“We have not diagnosed avian influenza in Utah’s domestic poultry population but the presence of the virus in migratory waterfowl poses a potential risk to our backyard poultry,” Dr. Hess said. “This event underscores the importance of biosecurity for backyard bird owners. We strongly encourage owners to eliminate any contact between their birds and wild birds. We also want them to monitor their flock closely and report sick birds.”

Backyard flock owners and domestic poultry owners can report sick birds to the State Veterinarian’s office at 1-801-538-4910 or by calling the USDA toll free at 1-866-536-7593. 

Also, if anyone finds wild bird carcasses that are not near power poles or roads, and that involve five or more carcasses of the following species, the DWR asks you to contact them:  Waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, scavengers such as crows and ravens, as well as quail and turkeys. 

Sick and dead wild birds should be reported to a local DWR office or by calling  (801) 538-4700.

The DWR is advising hunters to take routine precautions when handling game, including wearing latex or rubber gloves when cleaning birds, washing their hands with soapy water after cleaning, cleaning and disinfecting equipment and surfaces that come in contact with wild birds (e.g. washing with soapy water and disinfecting with a 10 percent chlorine bleach solution), and cooking wild birds thoroughly before eating the meat.

Click here for more information on bird flu in Utah