Avian cholera detected in wild waterfowl in Gibson County

Wildlife officials have confirmed the presence of avian cholera in geese from western Gibson County. Diagnostic testing was conducted at the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center.

Avian cholera is common among North American waterfowl, although the Gibson County detection is the first time the disease has been documented in wild birds in Indiana.

In total about 350 birds—mostly snow geese—have been found dead since the beginning of December. Tens of thousands of waterfowl spend winter in this part of the state, so the incidence of disease appears to be very low.

Avian cholera poses minimal risk to humans or to the commercial poultry industry, but it is highly contagious among wild birds, especially waterfowl. It is caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida and is unrelated to avian influenza.

The DNR, together with federal and private partners, has increased surveillance of waterfowl populations throughout the state and is carefully removing and disposing of carcasses to decrease the risk of transmission to other birds.

Avian cholera spreads through bird-to-bird contact, ingestion of food and water containing the infectious bacterium, and scavenging of infected carcasses. Infected birds often die quickly, but might appear sluggish and otherwise exhibit abnormal behavior. While the disease could result in high mortality rates in small areas, it is not expected to have a significant effect on overall waterfowl populations.

To help prevent the spread of avian cholera, waterfowl hunters in southwest Indiana should consider cleaning and disinfecting their gear, including waders and decoys, using warm, soapy water.

Waterfowl hunters should also use gloves when cleaning birds; avoid eating, drinking, or smoking during cleaning; and thoroughly wash their hands afterwards.

Animals known or suspected to be ill should not be consumed.

Duck season in southern Indiana ended on Jan. 21, and goose season runs through Feb. 11. The Indiana Light Goose Conservation Order Permits program allows the harvest of light geese from Feb. 12 through Mar. 31, 2018.

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