Thursday, September 24, 2009

Minimal Citizen Science

Some may not call this citizen science but non-scientists are volunteering the results of their efforts to monitor an important health and science issue:

For immediate release: September 24, 2009


Wildlife officials to test hunter-harvested ducks for avian influenza virus


Biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services will collect samples from hunter-harvested ducks to test for highly pathogenic avian virus – H5N1. Sampling will occur at various times during the migratory game bird hunting season this fall and winter.

Biologists will obtain samples at several duck-hunting hot spots throughout Florida, including the PotashCorp Wildlife Management Area in White Springs, Stormwater Treatment Area 3 and 4 (also referred to as STA 3/4) in Palm Beach County, and the T.M. Goodwin Waterfowl Management Area in Fellsmere.

Hunters will not need to surrender their ducks, and participation is voluntary.  Biologists will obtain the samples by swabbing the ducks' respiratory and digestive tracts. Scientists at a diagnostic lab will test the samples for the virus that causes avian influenza and for other diseases. 

The sampling is part of a continuing international surveillance effort to determine if migratory birds carry the highly pathogenic H5N1 Asian strain of virus that produces avian influenza in North America. The USDA hopes to collect 44,000 samples nationwide this year, including more than 1,000 samples from Florida. To date, scientists have processed more than 100,000 samples nationwide; none tested positive for the virus, including the 681 collected at check stations in Florida's wildlife management areas.

While it is extremely unlikely that hunters could contract avian influenza from wild birds in Florida, officials recommend taking common-sense precautions to reduce the risk of contracting any disease from wildlife. For instance, do not harvest or handle wild birds that are obviously sick or found dead; wear rubber gloves while cleaning game; clean game outdoors and stay upwind of game while cleaning; and do not eat, drink or smoke while cleaning game.

It is also important to wash hands with soap and water immediately after handling game or cleaning bird feeders. Wash tools and work surfaces used to clean game birds with soap and water, and then disinfect them with a 10-percent bleach solution.

In addition, hunters should separate raw meat, and anything it touches, from cooked or ready-to-eat foods to avoid contamination.

The FWC recommends cooking game birds thoroughly. Meat should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill disease organisms and parasites. 

For more information about avian influenza and the FWC's monitoring program, including how to report observations of dead birds, visit; click on "Health Advisories," then "Avian Influenza."


To view this press release online, visit

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