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Bird Flu: What You Need to Know

The highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus has never been found in New Jersey or North America, but your help is needed for tracking this virus. If you find sick or dead birds, do not handle them.

Report dead birds to the USDA – Wildlife Services at (866) 4-USDA-WS


Reports of H5N1-infected birds in Asia, Europe and Africa have increased since this strain was first confirmed. It is found mainly in poultry and wild birds, but may occur in some mammals. Despite a significant surveillance effort in domestic and wild birds, to date the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus has not been found in North America.

What surveillance efforts are being done to detect Bird Flu?

Federal and state agricultural and wildlife agencies are conducting continent-wide surveillance for high pathogenic H5N1 virus. Tens of thousands of wild bird samples are tested each year. In 2009, more than 44,000 wild birds were tested nationwide and in New Jersey, cooperators sampled 1,625 birds of 28 species.

New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife is working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture—Wildlife Services, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study to monitor wild birds. Emphasis in wild bird surveillance will be on wetland migratory birds, particularly waterfowl. Waterfowl hunters play a key role in surveillance. Hunters may be approached by various wildlife agency staff at key hunting sites with a request to take samples from harvested birds. Most samples are taken via swabs from the cloaca and mouth of harvested birds. Bird mortality events suggestive of avian influenza will also be investigated.

Information For Hunters

Although the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus is mainly a poultry disease, wild birds appear to play some role in its spread. Currently there is little evidence that hunting dogs can contract the virus. The risk to hunters appears low, but much is still unknown about this virus. Hunters can take reasonable steps to minimize their chance of contracting any potential bird virus.

Precautions for Handling Harvested Wild Birds

  • Do not handle or consume game animals that are obviously sick or found dead.
  • Wear rubber gloves when cleaning birds.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke while cleaning birds.
  • Keep your hands away from your face and mouth when cleaning birds.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water immediately after handling birds.
  • Disinfect your work area and knives with a 10% bleach solution.
  • Cook birds completely. The juices should be clear with no pink meat. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the internal meat temperature has reached a minimum of 165° F.

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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