Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) Information

Avian influenza, or “bird flu” as it is commonly called, is a naturally-occurring disease in wild waterfowl caused by various strains of avian-type influenza. In the past, the disease in wild birds has been of little concern, because it usually causes either mild or no clinical signs in them. In domestic poultry flocks, however, some strains of avian influenza are deadly and are classified as “highly pathogenic.” 

Some species of wild birds, such as mallards, can carry the highly pathogenic strains of influenza without becoming ill; whereas other species, such as swans, are sensitive to the virus and are more likely to sicken and die.  

Kansas Dept. of Agriculture Avian Influenza Information

Kansas Dept. of Agriculture News Releases

Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment Avian Influenza Information

Centers for Disease Control Information on Avian Influenza

mallard pair

Mallards - photo Mike Blair

How is avian influenza detected in wild birds?

Various methods are used to detect avian influenza in wild birds. One method is to take samples from live or hunter-killed birds. The sampling procedure involves quick and simple swabs of the throat and cloaca (combine

Another method used to detect avian influenza in wild birds is through surveillance of waterfowl areas for suspicious deaths in sensitive species. When mortalities occur that are not due to commonon diseases, injury, or natural death, the appropriate samples are taken and submitted for laboratory testing. d genital/anal opening) which do not harm the live bird nor do they affect the edibility of the meat. After sampling, the live bird is returned to the wild, whereas bagged birds can be taken home and enjoyed for dinner. (The sampling procedure is not a test of food safety.) The swabs are then sent to a laboratory for diagnostic testing.

Should I be afraid of avian influenza?

The chances of a hunter encountering the virus are extremely low. Furthermore, in its current form, the virus is not easily contracted by humans.

Although the risk of encountering avian influenza is very low, should I be cautious?

Hunters should always take reasonable routine precautions when handling wild game. The following information provided by the USGS will also help protect you from other transmissible diseases such as tularemia.

How to kill the virus: 
Thoroughly washing hands with soap and water (or with alcohol-based hand products if the hands are not visibly soiled) is a very effective method for inactivating influenza viruses. These viruses are also inactivated with many common disinfectants such as detergents, 10% household bleach, alcohol or other commercial disinfectants. The virus is more difficult to inactivate in organic material such as feces or soil.

Hunters should follow routine precautions when handling game:

  • Do not handle or eat sick game.
  • Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves while handling and cleaning game, wash hands as described above, and thoroughly clean knives, equipment and surfaces that come in contact with game.
  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling animals.
  • All game should be thoroughly cooked (well done or 160° F).

The general public should observe wildlife, including wild birds, from a distance. This protects you from possible exposure to pathogens and minimizes disturbance to the animal.

  • Avoid touching wildlife. If there is contact with wildlife do not rub eyes, eat, drink, or smoke before washing hands with soap and water as described above.
  • Do not pick up diseased or dead wildlife. Contact your state, tribal or federal natural resource agency if a sick or dead animal is found.

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