Avian Influenza

HPAI was recently detected in Maine in wild birds. The disease was originally found in the wild in black ducks sampled in Washington County, but has since been detected in more than 10 domestic non-poultry bird flocks in various counties in Maine.

Avian influenza is a respiratory disease of birds caused by influenza A viruses. While most wild birds such as ducks, gulls, and shorebirds can carry and spread the disease, they may not exhibit any signs of illness. Alternatively, avian influenza is well known to impact and kill domestic poultry such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese. Additionally, there have been predatory birds such as bald eagles and owls that have been tested for and died from avian influenza here in Maine.

It’s important to note that avian influenza detections in birds do not present an immediate public health concern. One human case of avian influenza has been detected in the United States. However, if you find a dead bird, it is best to wear gloves when disposing of the carcass in the garbage can. Wash your hands after handling the bird, and sanitize any equipment used on wild birds or poultry.

To avoid and mitigate the spread of avian influenza between wild bird populations:

  • Try not to walk in fields or other areas where you would get waste on your clothing or boots. If there is a chance you walked in bird waste, thoroughly clean and sanitize your gear before going to other areas.
  • Anyone feeding birds should do so with care. While many birdfeeder species may not be prime carriers, supplemental feed that could attract wild ducks, geese and turkeys could carry HPAI, particularly with homeowners that have domestic poultry.
  • Contain and separate domestic birds from wild birds in order to prevent possible spread. For example, if you have a pond that your domestic poultry uses, try to prevent wild birds from using the same area.

If you find a dead bird:

  • While MDIFW is not typically concerned with one or two dead birds, we are encouraging the public to report five or more birds that have died in a small area to the Department for further investigation.
  • Because of the impact on birds of prey, if someone from the public finds an ill or dead bald eagle, owl, or other bird of prey, we encourage you to notify the Department.
  • If you need to report a dead bird(s), please contact a regional wildlife biologist 

Consideration for Hunters:

Avian influenza does not present a food safety risk if wild game, poultry and eggs are handled and cooked properly. We encourage hunters to practice safe handling of harvested game.

  • Do not harvest game that appear obviously sick or found dead
  • Process game outdoors or in a well-ventilated area
  • Wear gloves and wash hands before and after handling the carcass
  • Disinfect all equipment that comes into contact with dead game (e.g., knives, surfaces)
  • Refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and touching your eyes during processing
  • Cook meat thoroughly
  • For those hunting in areas of potential exposure to bird droppings on the ground, such as agricultural fields or wetland shores, disinfect boots before moving to another area by first rinsing dirt and grime with water. Then spray with a mix of one part household bleach (typically listed as 5-6% on the label) to nine parts water.

To learn more about the impacts of avian influenza, please visit The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry.

To learn more about avian influenza and human health, please visit the Maine Centers for Disease Control.