A study by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine found the West Nile virus present in Iowa’s most popular game bird. But, researcher Eric Zhou says he’s not ready to make any sweeping statements, since only 80 birds were sampled.He says that number is way too small to make any conclusion about the prevalence of the disease. They then determined that 15 of 80 pheasants had been exposed to the virus. Iowa hunters shoot as many as one-million birds annually, but Dr. Zhou (Joe) says another winged creature is more likely to give hunters West Nile than a ring-neck.He says the likelihood of transmission between a bird and mammals is low. He says the main transmission to humans is through a mosquito bite. Zhou says a hunter who cuts himself while cleaning a bird could contract the disease if the hunter and the bird’s blood mixes. But, again he says the likelihood is low. Zhou says hunters shouldn’t be worried about eating a pheasant if they follow the proper procedures. He says take general precautions and be sure you cook the bird well. West Nile can be deadly to humans and some types of birds. Zhou can’t say if the virus poses a danger to the pheasant population.He says he can’t make that judgment yet until he gets a larger sample of the pheasant population. Other studies on pheasants and closely related birds, like wild turkeys and quail, so far indicate the birds are highly resistant to the disease and that it’s not thought to be a threat to survival. Zhou would like to sample more birds. He says he’s made a recommendation to the D-N-R to expand the sample of pheasants so he can get a better idea on the prevalence of the disease. The Iowa D-N-R says by the time Iowa’s pheasant season opens in late October, the risk of encountering mosquitoes or an infected bird is normally low. In an unusually warm year at least some potential exists for infected birds to be present as late as Thanksgiving.
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