COLLETON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – The first case of avian influenza to be detected in the United States since 2016 has been confirmed in a wild duck harvested by a hunter in Colleton County.

Officials at Clemson’s Veterinary Diagnostic Center first tested the bird, “and the diagnosis was confirmed by The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS).”

The virus is low risk to people, but could be a serious threat to South Carolina’s poultry industry.

According to Julie Helm, a veterinarian and poultry specialist with Clemson Livestock Poultry Health, there are two best practices for protecting poultry flocks:

Keep it AWAY: Keep your poultry and pets away from wild ducks and geese and their environment — ponds, lakes and swampy areas. Take care not to track the wild waterfowl virus back to your flock if you are hunting or hiking in the wild waterfowl environment. Buy new birds from a reputable source. Keep new birds or returning show birds separated from your established home flocks for 30 days. Keep pests (rodents, raccoons, opossums, rabbits) out of bird pens. Keep visitors out of your bird areas; what may they be carrying on their feet, clothing or vehicles? 

Keep it CLEAN: Clean cages and coops. Clean any equipment first before it comes onto your property. Wear designated farm shoes and clothing to care for your birds. Wash your hands before and after working with your birds. Change birds’ food and water daily. Wash your vehicles and trailers after visiting other poultry facilities and before you come home — Go through a car wash.”

The US Department of Agriculture Veterinary and Wildlife Services offered the following tips:

  • Do not harvest or handle wild birds that are obviously sick or found dead.
  • Dress your game birds in the field whenever possible. If you must dress birds at home, clean them in an area in which your poultry and pet birds have no access.
  • Keep a separate pair of shoes to wear only in your game cleaning area. If this is not possible, wear rubber footwear and clean/disinfect your shoes before entering or leaving the area.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke while cleaning game.
  • Always wear rubber gloves while cleaning game or cleaning bird feeders.
  • Wash hands with soap and water immediately after handling game or cleaning bird feeders. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol wipes.
  • Use dedicated tools for cleaning game, whether in the field or at home. Do not use those tools around your poultry or pet birds.
  • Wash all tools and work surfaces with soap and water and then disinfect them.
  • Avoid cross-contamination. Keep uncooked game in a separate container, away from cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
  • Cook game meat thoroughly; poultry should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill disease organisms and parasites.
  • Double bag the offal and feathers. Tie the inner bag; be sure to take off your rubber gloves and leave them in the outer bag before tying it closed.
  • Place the bag in a trash can that poultry and pet birds cannot access. This trash can should also be secure against access by children, pets or other animals.

 Editor’s note: This story is breaking and will be updated.