What others say: Avian flu arrives in Alaska

  • Tuesday, August 30, 2016 5:03pm
  • Opinion

Highly pathogenic avian flu — an extremely infectious variety of bird flu often fatal to birds — has been detected in Alaska waterfowl in Fairbanks, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

According to the DEC, the virus is almost identical to the outbreak that spread to domestic poultry last year in the Midwest, which caused the death of about 30 million chickens and turkeys through sickness and preventative culling.

While it’s certainly not time to panic, it is time to up our guard.

Bird flu is a concern for two main reasons: It has the potential, as we saw last year, to spread to the domestic food supply and increase our cost of living. It also has the potential to infect humans.

The DEC says that bird flu has yet to infect a human in North America — poultry farmers or anyone with prolonged exposure to birds are the most at risk.

So, what do you need to do?

If you’re a hunter you won’t need any extra protective gear, but be sure to wash your hands with soap and water after harvesting waterfowl and be sure to cook birds to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit before eating. The DEC says there is no evidence dogs can get avian flu, so you’re still free to bring along a hunting helper. Bird flu also affects wild eggs, so wash them in warm water and cook them to at least 160 degrees.

If you use wild feathers for art projects, the DEC recommends washing them in a light bleach solution first.

If you raise chickens, the DEC recommends monitoring and reporting illnesses in your birds, and reducing their exposure to wild birds. The only known cases of avian flu infecting humans have all occurred at large-scale poultry farms.

The DEC says you should always wash your hands after handling poultry, pet birds or wild birds.

Finally, get a flu shot. It won’t prevent avian flu, but it will prevent bird flu from potentially mixing with a “regular” flu in your body, mutating, and gaining the ability to infect humans easier.

Alaska plays a unique role as a gateway in migratory routes for millions of birds. It’s a role that — let’s be honest — usually comes with very few responsibilities for regular Alaskans.

But Alaskans will reduce the risk of this dangerous virus spreading to humans by practicing safe hunting and farming.

— Ketchikan Daily News,

Aug. 29

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