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NE Oregon duck deaths could mean avian cholera outbreak

MILTON-FREEWATER, Ore. (AP) - State and federal wildlife managers are investigating a possible outbreak of avian cholera in the Stanfield and Milton-Freewater area after several hundred ducks were spotted dead on private wetlands there.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said Tuesday it's awaiting test results on the dead birds, but a recent outbreak of the avian cholera around Burbank, Washington, has officials concerned. The dead ducks were spotted over the weekend.

Avian cholera is common among ducks, geese and other North American waterfowl.

It can kill birds within 12 hours after infection and is highly contagious.

Symptoms include lethargy, convulsions, swimming in circles, and erratic flight plus mucous discharge from the mouth and nose.

Risk to humans is low but hunters should wear gloves when cleaning birds and disinfect all hunting equipment.

ODFW news releases:

Report dead ducks to ODFW hotline

Possible avian cholera outbreak in northeast Oregon

SALEM, Ore.—State and federal wildlife managers are investigating a possible outbreak of avian cholera in ducks after members of the public reported several hundred dead ducks at  wetlands on private land in the Stanfield and Milton-Freewater areas over the weekend.

The public is asked to report sick or dead birds to 1-866-968-2600 or Wildlife.Health@state.or.us

ODFW is still waiting on tests to confirm whether the dead ducks collected died from cholera. However, Washington Fish and Wildlife recently confirmed an outbreak of avian cholera around nearby Burbank, Wash.

ODFW, WDFW and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working to minimize the spread of the disease through careful carcass collection and disposal to reduce the amount of bacteria in the environment.

Avian cholera is caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida and is one of the most common diseases among ducks, geese and other wild North American waterfowl. Symptoms displayed by infected birds include lethargy, convulsions, swimming in circles, and erratic flight plus mucous discharge from the mouth and nose, and soiling of the feathers around the vent, eyes, and bill.

According to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, the bacteria kill waterfowl swiftly, sometimes in as few as six to 12 hours after infection. Live bacteria released into the environment by dead and dying birds can subsequently infect healthy birds. Avian cholera is highly contagious and spreads rapidly through bird-to-bird contact, ingestion of food or water containing the bacteria, or scavenging of infected carcasses.

While the risk to people from the disease is extremely low, ODFW urges the public to avoid handling sick or dead birds. Though hunting seasons in the area are now closed, hunters should  wear gloves when cleaning birds and disinfect waders, decoys and other hunting equipment to stop further spread of the bacteria and harvested waterfowl should be cooked thoroughly prior to consumption. Finally, keep your pets away from sick birds. 


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