Mississippi seeing more sick, dying waterfowl reports, expect HPAI cases to rise

Published 12:37 pm Tuesday, December 13, 2022

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JACKSON — Mississippi detected another case of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in a wild bird that was found dead on December 1, 2022. The detection was recently added to the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) dashboard. 

Since the start of September’s Teal season, nine cases of the disease have been detected in Mississippi with the latest found in a Ross’s Goose located in Lowndes County. Louisiana has detected 41 cases of the disease in wild birds with 38 cases coming from Cameron Parish. 

Nationally, 4,362 cases of HPAI have been detected at this point in the waterfowl season. 

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According to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, cases of sick and dying wild birds have been reported in the state with the majority of birds being snow or Ross’s geese. Samples have been submitted for testing and HPAI positives could rise once results come in. 

Avian influenza is caused by the influenza type A virus which can infect poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese, and guinea fowl) and wild birds (especially waterfowl). Houston Havens, MDWFP Waterfowl Program Coordinator, said it spreads primarily through fecal and oral transmission.

Mississippi’s low water levels could have an impact in the disease spread as waterfowl have less options for habitat. 

“Dense concentrations of birds certainly have a higher likelihood of spreading the disease,” Havens said. “Waterfowl naturally concentrate in large groups during fall and winter but relatively low abundance of wetland habitat can have a further concentrating effect.” 

The risk posed to humans from HPAI infections in wild birds is still considered to be low, but care should be taken to minimize risk. HPAI can also be found in poultry production. Lawerence County had a commercial broiler breeder with about 34,400 affected birds in early November. 

Safety precautions for HPAI

Waterfowl Hunters: 

  • Only harvest birds that act and look healthy. 
  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling harvested birds. 
  • Process harvested birds outdoors or in a well-ventilated area. 
  • Wear disposable gloves while processing harvested birds. 
  • Wash hands, utensils, and work surfaces before and after processing birds, as well as before and after handling uncooked meat. 
  • Keep harvested birds cool until processed, then refrigerate, freeze, or cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. 

Disposing of bird carcasses:  

  1. Dead birds should not be handled with bare hands. Maintain a physical barrier. 
  2. To collect or remove dead birds from the environment: 
  1. Pick up the bird with doubled plastic bags that have been turned inside out. 
  2. Then, invert and seal the doubled plastic bag with the bird inside. 
  1. To dispose of the bird: 
  1. Place the bag in household garbage. 
  2. As an alternative, bury the dead bird (no bag) by handling the bird with a shovel. 
  1. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.