- Georgia Division of Public Health Notifiable Diseases Epidemiology Section
- Georgia Department of Agriculture Office of the State Veterinarian
- Georgia Department of Natural Resources
- Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study
The recent spread of Asian Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1, also commonly referred to as “bird flu,” in Asia, Europe, and Africa has resulted in concern and increased surveillance for H5 Avian Influenza viruses in North American bird populations. The following information provides guidance for those who are concerned or receive inquiries about sick or dead birds.
Please be advised to avoid handling any sick or dead birds before contacting the appropriate persons listed below and getting specific instructions. If more than one bird is sick or dead, please make this clear when consulting with appropriate agency/persons.
Personally owned birds: Any sick or dead birds that are personally owned (i.e. pet birds) should be referred to the caller’s veterinarian for consultation.
Wild bird species:
- Waterfowl or shorebirds (e.g. ducks, migratory geese, swans, seagulls, etc): Individual birds of these species have been infected with the Asian HPAI H5N1 virus in affected regions (i.e. Asia, Europe and Africa) and may have contributed to the global spread of the virus. Surveillance in North America has detected low pathogenic H5 strains in some species of these birds, but there has been no Asian HPAI H5N1 detected in North American birds at the time of this writing (October 3, 2006). Some species of these birds are included in the wild bird avian influenza surveillance program in Georgia. Canadian geese in GA are considered resident, nonmigratory birds and will not be considered for avian influenza surveillance under most circumstances. All inquiries about sick or dead waterfowl or shorebirds should be directed to a GA Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Game Management Specialist in the appropriate region (refer to the appendices for talking points and contact information).
- Birds of prey (e.g. falcons, hawks, eagles, etc): Individual birds of these species have become sick with the Asian HPAI H5N1 virus in affected countries, presumably after consuming an infected bird. As a result, some species will be included in the Georgia wild bird avian influenza surveillance program. However, they may also be infected with the West Nile Virus. Refer inquiries to a GA Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Game Management Specialist in the appropriate region (refer to the appendices for talking points and contact information). They will determine if avian influenza and/or WNV testing is appropriate.
- Other birds (e.g. cardinals, sparrows, blue jays, crows, pigeons etc): These birds do not typically carry avian influenza viruses and are considered at very low risk for Asian HPAI H5N1 infection at this time. However, they may be infected with the West Nile Virus (WNV). Inquiries about these birds should be referred to County Environmental Health Offices in reference to WNV. Talking points and a contact list of Environmental Health Offices are in the appendices to this document.
Poultry species (e.g. quail, turkeys, chickens): If less than 4 birds, or less than 10% of the total flock, are involved (sick and/or dead) inquiries should be referred to the closest laboratory in the GA Poultry Laboratory Network (map of laboratories and contact information in the appendices of this document). Please call the laboratory for instructions. The GA Poultry Laboratory will encourage persons to submit bird(s) themselves to the laboratory (see dead bird handling protocol below). If 4 or more birds, or 10% or more of the flock, are involved (sick and/or dead), the GA Department of Agriculture State Veterinarian or the USDA Area Veterinarian in Charge needs to be notified so that a Veterinary Medical Officer (VMO) may be dispatched to investigate. A Department inspector or animal health technician may be requested by the VMO to transport the birds to the laboratory.
State Veterinarian’s Office – Bus Hrs 404-656-3667 – 800-282-5852 ext. 3667 – Wkends/Eve 800-TRY-GEMA
USDA Area Veterinarian’s Office – 770-922-7860 (24/7) –
HOW TO HANDLE DEAD BIRDS
If testing is not necessary, please follow the guidelines below to dispose of a dead bird, as appropriate:
- Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling animals.
- Put hand(s) in a plastic bag turned inside out and pick up the bird using the plastic bag. Turn bag right-side-out over the bird and seal bag with bird inside.
- Dispose of bird in trash.
- Thoroughly wash hands with soap and warm water (or with alcohol-based hand sanitizers if hands are not visibly soiled)
To collect a sick or dead bird for testing, please follow the guidelines below:
- Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling animals.
- Wear water-proof gloves that can be disposed of or decontaminated and protective eyewear (glasses).
- Place bird in a plastic, sealable bag. Seal bag with bird inside.
- Place bag with bird into a second plastic bag and seal.
- Refrigerate the bag (e.g. on ice in a portable cooler or in a refrigerator that does not contain food) and take to the lab as soon as possible. Do not freeze.
- If a live, sick bird, call the laboratory for instructions on proper handling and transport.
- Dispose of the gloves as trash.
- Thoroughly wash hands with soap and warm water (or with alcohol-based hand sanitizers if hands are not visibly soiled).
Developed by the Georgia Division of Public Health Notifiable Diseases Epidemiology Section in partnership with the Georgia Department of Agriculture Office of the State Veterinarian, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study. Revised 10-27-2006.
Center Publication Number: 228