Avian flu found in snow geese in Henderson County

Published 11:55 am Friday, January 19, 2024

The Kentucky Division of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) announced Thursday that Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has been confirmed in snow geese discovered in Henderson County.

The samples, which came from two snow geese at Sloughs Wildlife Management Area, 10 miles west of the city of Henderson, were taken to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study Virology Laboratory, where they confirmed HPAI in the geese, which were found dead on Dec. 18, 2023.

“HPAI is highly infectious and often deadly in wild and domestic birds,” said KDFWR veterinarian Dr. Christine Casey.  “Practicing good biosecurity and limiting contact between wild birds and domestic flocks is crucial to preventing the spread of the disease.”

Infected birds spread the virus through their saliva, mucus and feces.  Symptoms of HPAI in infected birds include incoordination, droopy wings, lethargy, unwillingness to fly, swimming in circles and head tremors.

Waterfowl hunters or people hiking through waterfowl habitat (wetlands, ponds, lakes and streams) are encouraged to take precautions by wearing gloves, changing shoes and disinfecting exposed tools or materials before coming into contact with poultry flocks or other domestic birds at home.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk to human health posed by HPAI continues to be low.  Meat or eggs harvested from wild or domestic birds do not present a food safety risk when handled or cooked properly.

With waterfowl season still open, hunters should take these precautions when handling wild game:

  • Do not harvest, handle or consume birds that are found dead or obviously sick.
  • When handling birds, wear disposable gloves, then wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds after removing gloves or touching the birds.
  • Thoroughly clean any utensils, equipment and surfaces that touch birds.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke when handling or cleaning game birds.
  • All game should be thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165 F to kill viruses, bacteria and parasites.  Properly cooked game is safe to eat.
  • Do not feed dogs raw or undercooked meat from harvested waterfowl.

Hunters and the public can help with KDFWR surveillance efforts, by reporting sick or dead waterfowl.  You can call 1-800-858-1549, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (ET) weekdays, excluding holidays.

More information about HPAI and wild birds is available on the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website at fw.ky.gov.