Information for Game Bird Hunters

The only proven modes of transmission of the West Nile virus are via a mosquito vector (a mosquito with the virus in its salivary glands injects the virus into the host when it feeds), blood transfusions, organ transplants, transplacental transmission, and via breast feeding. Research on various avian species has shown gallinaceous and waterfowl species are weakly competent or incompetent reservoir hosts (the virus may not replicate in the bird), Emerging Infectious Disease, Vol.9, No.3, March 2003.

Although there has been no evidence of transmission occurring when blood from an infected bird contacts human skin, as a precaution against blood-borne pathogens (both viral and bacterial), hunters should wear rubber or latex gloves when handling, cleaning, and butchering dead animals. Tools used when processing gamebirds should be disinfected after use with bleach and then washed in soapy water and reused.

No humans have been infected by consuming the meat of an infected bird. However, the meat of birds should be cooked thoroughly, heating to an internal temperature of 170 to 180 degrees F. Cooking to this temperature will kill the WNV virus as well as other viruses and bacteria, eliminating any possible chance of infection.

Hunters are at a greater risk of exposure to the virus via a bite by an infected mosquito than they are by consuming the meat of a bird. Therefore, hunters should take the personal protection measures of wearing protective clothes (long sleeve shirts and long pants) and by using mosquito repellents on their clothing and skin (follow label directions concerning application) in order to prevent mosquito bites.