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DNR warns Michigan hunters of rising avian flu cases ahead of waterfowl season

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan wildlife officials are warning hunters of a rise in avian flu among certain waterfowl species.

Waterfowl season begins next week in Michigan, and state wildlife officials are urging hunters to watch for signs of avian flu in game birds. 

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says it’s seeing a recent uptick in the number of wild birds infected by highly pathogenic avian influenza.

Ducks are most commonly prone to the virus, but it can also affect geese, swans and other shorebirds.

The risk of transmission to humans is low.

However, State Wildlife Veterinarian Megan Moriarty says it’s important to practice good biosecurity, which means keeping some distance between wild and domestic birds.

“And thoroughly disinfecting equipment that you either use to hunt waterfowl in the field or equipment that you use to clean up after your domestic poultry or your pet birds,” Moriarty said.

Moriarty adds waterfowl should be cooked at the proper temperature.

“Thoroughly cooking all game meat to 165 degrees Fahrenheit makes that meat same for consumption,” she added. “So, even if an animal had this viral infection, if the bird was cooked thoroughly, the risk to humans is very, very small.”

The DNR says birds should be prepared outdoors or in well-ventilated areas and recommends wearing rubber or disposable latex gloves when handling and cleaning game.

Waterfowl season begins September 1.

Kevin Lavery has been news director at WKAR since September 2006.