Friday, August 10, 2012
Until the first hard frost kills Montana’s mosquitoes, hunters should take precautions against insect bites and remember that West Nile virus can infect humans as well as a variety of animals, especially birds and horses.
WNV can cause fever and fatigue and in its most severe form can be fatal to humans and animals. About 80 percent of infected humans, however, never develop symptoms. WNV most commonly affects older individuals, young children or those with weakened immune systems.
Montana’s archery and upland bird hunting seasons opens Sept. 1. The best way to avoid contracting WNV is to avoid being bitten by a mosquito. Because mosquitoes carrying WNV are likely still active, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks urges hunters to take a few precautions when in the field.
- Apply insect repellent with DEET, especially when hunting in moist areas or where one is likely to encounter mosquitoes.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and full-length pants, especially at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
- Hunters using horses should consider getting them vaccinated.
- Although it is unlikely that people or dogs can become infected with WNV by handling infected birds, don't not shoot or eat sick birds and use good hygiene when cleaning birds.
- Inspect birds for good physical condition, clean all blood and entrails and thoroughly cook game birds. Epidemiologists don’t think there is a risk of contracting WNV by eating an infected game bird, but as a routine precaution hunters are advised to clean and cook game meat thoroughly.
Hunters should also routinely follow these additional common sense precautions when handling and cleaning game: wear rubber gloves when field dressing game animals; avoid sawing through bone and cutting through the brain or spinal cord (backbone); minimize contact with animal hair, brain, intestines, fluids, spinal tissue and feces; prevent dogs from eating the internal organs of game animals; wash hands and forearms after field dressing game animals.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports there is no evidence that WNV can be contracted by handling a diseased bird. Likewise, hunters shouldn’t worry about their dogs getting infected by retrieving a bird with WNV.