How to Avoid Catching Bird Flu While Hunting or Fishing

By: rickstooker
There've always been risks to hunting and fishing -- and smart hunters and fishers have always been aware of them and taken steps to minimize the risks.

Just as you now practice gun safety, you must now be aware that there is new risk -- bird flu.

Right now, the risk is small. That is true.

If you're hunting in the Eastern Hemisphere (Europe, Africa, Asia) you do have a slight but significant chance of encountering the bird flu virus.

If you're hunting in the Western Hemisphere (North and South America), your chances of encountering bird flu are -- right now -- very small but NOT zero. Especially if you're hunting in the far north of Alaska and Canada.

Experts expect migratory birds to bring the H5N1 virus to the Americas by fall. So far, they have not found it in this hemisphere. But remember that they cannot capture and test every single bird.

You don't want to catch bird flu from the one duck in North America that's infected with bird flu!

Migratory birds such as ducks have always carried influenza viruses in their intestines and that's never seemed to bother hunters.

However, the avian influenza virus known as H5N1 is a new beast. It kills chickens like Ebola and, unlike most avian flus, it has infected and killed people.

The H5N1 bird flu mainly infects birds such as ducks and geese, but it is known to also infect mammals, such as a cat in Germany. Therefore, although it's not likely to be in a random squirrel, rabbit, raccoon or deer -- you can't be 100% sure.

But it is true that hunting ducks or other birds is the mostly likely to expose you to the virus.

Hunters and fishers, you should both know that the H5N1 virus can live up to a month or so in water. Therefore, if you wade (or fall) into any water where ducks, geese or other birds swim (and defecate), there's a slight chance you could catch the virus that way.

Exposure to the virus in water is the one major possible risk to fishers -- because the virus cannot infect fish, handling, cleaning and eating them is not a problem.

Hunters, wear waterproof boots. Keep your feet dry (always good advice).

The major risk to hunters is the physical handling and cleaning of dead ducks. Wear rubber gloves when you're handling dead ducks -- at all times. People have caught bird flu from plucking feathers from infected chickens. They've even caught bird flu from making shuttlecocks with chicken feathers.

So you're at particular risk when you're de-feathering and eviscerating the birds.

When you cook them, rinse the carcass with a solution of hydrogen peroxide. After you're done cutting it up and handling it, wash all knives, utensils, cutting boards and other kitchen surfaces thoroughly before preparing any other food.

Discard all the waste matter carefully in a plastic bag. Dispose of it so that no child or dog can touch the body parts or blood.

Cook the meat thoroughly. 158 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celcius) will kill any H5N1 virus infecting the bird. Do not serve until meat is well done -- never eat any pink or red meat. People in Vietnam have died from bird flu because they ate a traditional Vietnamese delicacy -- raw duck blood soup. That's no longer such a popular meal in Vietnam.

That's true of all meat and fish whether we're facing bird flu or not -- other bacteria, viruses and parasites can be in any flesh you eat. Serving it well done is healthiest.

Some hunters don't eat their catches -- they have them mounted on trophy boards.

If you mount dead birds onto trophy boards for hunters -- you should wear rubber gloves at all times.

Chances are, the birds you shoot will not have bird flu -- but sooner or later, some hunter somewhere will shoot an infected duck. Take the proper precautions, and only the duck will die.


Sooner or later, some hunter somewhere is going to shoot a bird flu infected duck. The risk is small -- but it will happen. If you're careful, the duck will be the only one to die.
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