Wild bird monitoring guards against bird flu

By Peter Kent

Strains of bird flu have been circulating for years in South Carolina’s ducks, shorebirds and other wild birds. Unlike the H5NI strain in Asia and Europe, the native strains are not dangerous to humans.

A national surveillance program constantly monitors wild birds and tests for the H5N1 flu strain. Beginning in September and continuing through the end of January, South Carolina and other states are joining the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Interior to collect between 75,000 and 100,000 wild bird samples and conduct more than 50,000 environmental tests nationwide.   

“Increased testing raises the likelihood of finding normal avian influenza in the state’s wild water birds,” said Tony Caver, state veterinarian and director of Clemson’s Livestock-Poultry Health division. Scientists in this unit will test the state wild bird samples for bird flu. If first-round tests prove positive, the samples will be sent to a federal lab for confirmation.

Game bird hunters should wear sturdy blood-proof gloves when cleaning game, safely dispose of the entrails and cook the birds to at least 165º F internal temperature.

For information: Tony Caver, 803-788-2260, acaver@clemson.edu