NAMPA, Idaho - Visitors to Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge may observe sick or dead waterfowl, due to a suspected outbreak of avian cholera and highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Visitors should not approach or touch any birds that may appear to be dead, sick or are exhibiting abnormal behavior.
Refuge staff are working with partners to collect and bury as many dead birds as possible, to prevent the spread of the highly transmissible bacteria and virus. To date, the most commonly affected species is snow goose.
“We suspect the mortalities are related to avian cholera and have sent diagnostic samples to the Wildlife Health Lab as well as testing for highly pathogenic avian influenza. We are waiting for confirmation,” said refuge manager Edward Owens. “In the meantime, we are doing all that we can to prevent further spread on the refuge.”
Avian cholera is a bacterial infection caused by Pasteurella multocida. Highly contagious, dead birds are the most common cause of the bacteria’s spread. Though not considered contagious to human, the meat is not appropriate for human consumption.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza is present in the Pacific Flyway, which includes Idaho. The virus is easily transmissible and can be passed by contaminated individuals and surfaces like clothes and boots. Biologists working to prevent the spread of the virus must wear protective gear and gloves. Though rare, HPAI can be transmitted to humans. Additional USFWS information about HPAI.
Unfortunately, for birds that show symptoms of avian cholera or influenza, there is no treatment. Mortality is the most likely outcome for an individual bird that has contracted either illness.
“If you suspect a bird is sick or dead, please do not approach or touch it,” said Owens. “Please leave the birds where they are and we are working as quickly as we can to address the situation.”
Yesterday, Idaho Fish and Game’s Southwest Region announced a suspected cholera outbreak related to a large snow goose die off in areas in and around Parma.
“The refuge is coordinating with Idaho Fish and Game in our response to the ongoing mortality event at the refuge,” said Owens. “We appreciate their support and partnership in our response.”