Kansas wild bird populations weathering avian influenza

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wild bird populations in Kansas appear to be unaffected by an outbreak of avian influenza, although one wild goose suspected of having the disease has been tested for it, the state’s wildlife disease official said Wednesday.

Those test results from a goose found in Lyon County along the Cottonwood River are not expected for a couple of days, said Shane Hesting, wildlife disease coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

Kansas no longer tests apparently healthy wild populations for the disease because of a lack of funding, he said. But the state has not had any reports of widespread wild bird deaths from avian influenza, and it does not expect game bird populations to decline due to the disease.

“If it mutates and starts killing wild birds, we will hear about it,” Hesting said. “And it is possible, but birds live with these viruses for so long that they have an immunity to them. We can simply call them carriers.”

Bird flu is more of a concern for domestic poultry flocks, which can be infected by wild birds that carry the disease or by a breakdown in the farm’s biosecurity measures because the virus can be transmitted on a worker’s clothing or on equipment.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed cases of the highly pathogenic avian influenza in the Pacific, Central and Mississippi flyways. Cases have been found in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Minnesota, Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas.

On Wednesday, the Kansas Department of Agriculture said samples collected from a commercial flock in Crawford County tested positive for low pathogenic avian influenza, a milder form of the virus that in most cases causes no signs of infection or only minor symptoms in birds. That flock will be killed and buried onsite, but no quarantine will be issued, the department said.

The state detected highly pathogenic avian influenza earlier this month in a backyard flock of chickens and ducks in Leavenworth County. Additionally, parts of Cherokee and Crawford counties in the southeast part of the state are under surveillance after a confirmed case of the H5N2 strain of bird flu was found just across the state line in Jasper County, Missouri.

The North American Falconers Association issued a warning last week to falconers located in the Central Flyway that the virus is deadly to captive raptors, and has already killed about a dozen falconry birds in the Pacific Flyway. It is recommending falconers not feed their birds any migratory waterfowl taken during the season, even if it has been in their freezer.

The wildlife department in Kansas has received no reports of avian influenza from falconers in Kansas, Hesting said.

“The migratory season has probably already peaked with birds heading north so, in Kansas anyway, we are probably not going to see more mortality related to avian influenza,” Hesting said, adding that the exception might be farms or backyard flocks with poor biosecurity measures, which may be infected by viruses carried from other poultry facilities.

 

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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