By The Denver North Star staff
With highly pathogenic avian Influenza (avian flu) affecting birds across Denver and much of the region, the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE) and Denver Parks & Recreation (DPR) recently sent out a reminder for people to not touch dead birds.
Residents should never handle wildlife and should keep pets away from sick or dead birds, the agencies stated. DDPHE and DPR reported they have received an increase in calls from the community about dead waterfowl, mostly geese, in some city parks.
If you find a dead bird at a park, call 311 to report it. If you find a dead bird on your private property, you can dispose of the bird yourself, but avoid direct contact with the remains, the departments stated. Wear disposable gloves, bag the bird carefully, and put it in an appropriate outdoor, (preferably covered) trash receptacle, then call 311 to report it.
If you’re not comfortable with disposing of the bird yourself, you can call 311 for removal. If you come across a bird that appears sick stay away from it and keep pets away as well. Signs of sickness include tremors or lack of coordination, swelling around the head, neck and eyes, lack of energy or movement, coughing, gasping for air, sneezing, or diarrhea.
DPR also warns residents to leave dead geese on icy ponds or lakes alone. The departments also said people should not try to walk on ice to retrieve dead or sick geese. This is another reason to keep your pets on leashes — to avoid the dangers of falling through the ice, as well as possible infection to your pet.
Transmission between infected birds and humans is rare but it can occur. Infected birds shed the virus in their saliva, mucus and feces. Human infections can happen when the virus gets into their eyes, nose or mouth, or is inhaled. This can happen when the virus is in the air (in droplets or possibly dust) and a person breathes it in, or if a person touches something that has the virus on it, then touches their mouth, eyes or nose, the departments stated.
But most often these infections happen after close, prolonged, and unprotected contact with infected birds. You can get more prevention information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The risk of infection to pets is also low, though avian flu can infect mammals that eat infected birds or poultry. If pets are exposed to sick or dead birds, watch for signs of disease and report illness to a veterinarian.
The departments stated they work with the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to determine whether a specific specimen should be tested. The Colorado Department of Agriculture is tracking and responding to cases of avian flu in the state.