KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — If you own domesticated birds or plan on bird hunting, the Tennessee State Veterinarian is issuing an alert for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza.

HPAI is prevalent in wild birds and is endangering backyard and commercial flocks in Tennessee, according to the state veterinarian.

“HPAI detections among domesticated birds and wild birds have been on the rise.” Tennessee State Veterinarian Dr. Samantha Beaty said. “We want to alert bird hunters that the risk of bringing this disease to their flock is extremely high. The good news is that owners can drastically reduce the risk by continually practicing biosecurity and avoiding contact between wild and domesticated birds, alive or dead.”

Beaty recommends flock owners wash their hands before and after interacting with domesticated birds. Owners should have a dedicated pair of shoes to only be worn in coops or poultry houses, she added. People are also advised to clean the shoes with a 10 percent bleach solution after every visit. In addition, Beaty advises the clothing and shoes used for hunting not to be worn around domesticated birds.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency adds that hunters should dress game birds in the field when possible. The remains can then be buried at the harvest site or double-bagged and disposed of with normal household waste according to the TWRA.

“It does take effort to sustain biosecurity practices but it’s well worth it,” Dr. Beaty continued. “Flock owners must be persistent in their efforts to keep birds healthy. If birds appear ill or there’s a spike in unexpected deaths, bird owners should notify our office right away.”

HPAI is a highly transmissible disease that is known to be deadly. Birds can be exposed to HPAI through human interactions and through contact with wild birds. In 2022, cases in Tennessee have caused domesticated chickens, geese, and ducks in Obion, Tipton, Bledsoe, and Davidson Counties to get sick. According to TWRA, there have been 28 confirmed cases of HPAI in wild birds, including 26 ducks, a Canada goose, and a bald eagle.

According to the state, the risk of human infection with avian influenza during poultry outbreaks is very low. In fact, during the 2017 outbreak that affected commercial poultry farms in Tennessee, no transmission to humans was reported.

For anyone who experiences poultry deaths, the remains should be disposed of according to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Policy Concerning the Disposal of Dead Farm Animals. Sick or dead wild birds can be reported to TWRA at www.tn.gov/twra/sick-birds.html. Nationally, sick or dead farm birds can also be reported to USDA at 1-866-536-7593 or in Tennessee to the State Veterinarian’s office at 615-837-5120.