Avian influenza viruses circulate in wild waterfowl and can infect other wild birds. For most strains of avian influenza, clinical disease in wild birds is rare. Strains in the clade 184.108.40.206b cause clinical disease and death in many wild bird species. It may threaten biodiversity if introduced to Australia. All wild bird species should be assumed to be at risk from HPAI 220.127.116.11b.
People in contact with wild birds, including wildlife carers and duck shooters, are at low risk of an avian influenza infection. You should wear personal protective equipment when handling live or dead birds.
Hygiene is vital so thoroughly wash hands with soap before and after handling wild birds.
Signs of avian influenza in wild birds
Infected live wild birds may show a wide range of clinical signs, including:
- incoordination, tremors, swimming in circles
- twisted necks or other abnormal posture
- inability to stand or fly
- difficulty breathing, coughing or sneezing
- swelling around the head, neck and eyes
- cloudiness or change in colour of the eyes
- sudden death.
If you encounter sick or dead wild birds and suspect avian influenza, do not handle any birds but report them to the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888 or contact your local veterinarian.
Protecting wild birds
There is no way to prevent new strains of avian influenza entering Australia with migratory wild birds or transmission between wild birds.
Wildlife Health Australia’s risk mitigation toolbox is a guide for wildlife managers to plan and prepare for HPAI in free-ranging wildlife.
More information can be found on the Wildlife Health Australia website.