Avian Cholera Found In Indiana

Published: Jan. 31, 2018 at 10:21 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 10, 2018 at 5:32 PM CST
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GIBSON CO., IN (WFIE) - The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has confirmed several wild game birds tested positive for a deadly disease.

The good news is it usually only affects waterfowl.

That disease is known as Avian Cholera, and it affects waterfowl like geese and duck. Its been around for years, but this is the first reported case in Indiana.

In Gibson County, they have found over 350 dead birds, most of them are snow geese, due to avian cholera.

It was confirmed in North America in the mid-1900s, and officials with U.S. Fish and wildlife told us they started getting reports of dead geese in Gibson County as early as December.

"We went to investigate, and we did find some dead snow geese and white-fronted geese while we were there," said Heath Hamilton, the Wildlife Refuge Specialist with U.S. Fish & Wildlife.

Hamilton said they collected nearly 50 of the dead birds and sent some to the National Wildlife Health Lab in Wisconsin for testing.

"They came back and said that indeed the six specimens that we sent up there did have Avian Cholera; they tested positive for that," Hamilton continued.

Even though hundreds of dead birds have been found in the area, when you consider how many tens of thousands of birds pass through, authorities said this is not a major concern yet. But it is a first, which makes it interesting.

"We have maybe 100,000 snow geese that could be using the area at any given time, so it's a part of the population," Hamilton said.

DNR officials told us the disease poses minimal risk to humans or to the commercial poultry industry, but it is highly contagious among wild birds, especially waterfowl.

"This can actually cause the birds to die very quickly, so the only sign you may see is just finding dead birds, otherwise you may just see birds that don't want to fly," said AGFC Veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Ballard. "They may not be moving normally or just sit there and be very lethargic." 

Officials told us if you suspect a bird might be infected, it's a good idea not to eat it.

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