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Hunters concerned over game birds possibly carrying West Nile Virus


Although most West Nile virus-positive birds in other states have been American crows, infections also have been confirmed in many other species, including game birds.

As of Aug. 20 no West Nile Virus activity has been found in Utah, but this could change any time, says Clell Bagley, Utah State University Extension veterinarian.

Until the time when WNV is identified here, there is a lower (but not zero) likelihood of WNV being present in any game bird than in states where WNV has already been found.

"It is important to remember that there is no evidence that birds can transmit WNV to humans, but gloves should be worn when handling any dead bird or mammal," Bagley says.

Because of their outdoor exposure, game hunters may be at risk if they become bitten by mosquitoes in areas with West Nile virus activity, he says. The extent to which West Nile virus may be present in wild game is unknown. Surveillance studies are currently underway in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center (in Madison, Wis.) and with state and local wildlife biologists and naturalists to answer this question.

Hunters should follow the usual precautions when handling wild animals, he adds. Hunters should wear gloves when handling and cleaning animals to prevent blood exposure to bare hands, and meat should be cooked thoroughly.

As an additional precaution, hunters should not collect or consume any animals, including birds, who appear to be exhibiting unusual behaviors, or appear to be ill or in poor condition prior to being shot.

Hunters should check with their local area department of wildlife and natural resources, state epidemiologist at the state health department or the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center, Madison, Wis., 608-270-2400, for information on local area risk.

In Utah, Bagley says hunters may also contact their local health departments or the Office of Epidemiology.

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