Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)

Avian Bird Flu received notoriety several years ago as a virus that may be transported by birds, including migrating waterfowl.

Bird flu is the common name for a variety of strains of the avian influenza virus. Type A is the most serious of three strains of the virus, and may occur in humans as well as animals such as pigs, horses, whales, seals, and birds. Common use of the term (Bird Flu) in the media has become specifically attached to one specific strain of the virus: Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Virus H5N1.

In the past, H5N1 spread primarily from wild and domesticated bird sources through fecal and saliva contamination of water. It does not spread readily through the air, and does not pass readily from human to human.

Waterfowl and waterfowl hunting

Movement of H5N1 through wild populations of waterfowl has been documented. There is concern that this may led to an introduction of the virus from northern Asia into North America via Alaska. Some individual birds do migrate from Siberia through Alaska and eventually into South Dakota every fall. Genetic studies of avian influenza viruses from Eurasia and North America suggest there is very limited exchange of avian influenza viruses between continents.

Federal and state agencies, including South Dakota GFP, are working together to watch for occurrences of the virus in wild birds. So far there have been no occurrences of the Highly Pathogenic type virus H5N1 found in North America.

What precautions should hunters take?

Taking precautions during the cleaning and care of game animals has always been an essential part of the hunting experience. These suggestions apply any time you are handling game birds:

  • Do not handle birds if they appear to be sick. Contact a GFP office to report sick or dead birds.
  • Use rubber or latex gloves when handling and cleaning birds.
  • Keep your game birds cool, clean and dry.
  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke while cleaning game birds.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol gel after dressing birds.
  • Clean all tools and surfaces immediately upon completion of dressing birds. Use hot soapy water, then disinfect with 10% chlorine bleach solution.
  • Cook game meat thoroughly at a recommended temperature.


For more information:
World Health Organization
National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
USDA-APHIS Veterinary Services
USGS National Wildlife Health Center

Game, Fish & Parks
523 East Capitol Avenue
Pierre, SD 57501
(605) 773-3485
wildinfo@state.sd.us

South Dakota
Animal Industry Board

411 South Fort Street
Pierre, SD 57501
(605) 773-3321
aibmail@state.sd.us

South Dakota
Department of Health

600 East Capitol Avenue
Pierre, SD 57501
(605) 773-3361