The Pennsylvania Game Commission is issuing a warning to the state’s hunters.
With a rare mosquito-transmitted virus documented in the state this year, the Game Commission is encouraging hunters and others who spend time outdoors to take precautions against mosquito bites and report to the agency any dead or strange-acting wild animals they believe to have been infected.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis has been documented in wildlife and livestock in Pennsylvania in recent weeks. It’s been found in two wild turkeys in Erie County, a wild deer in Luzerne County, captive pheasants in Monroe County and horses in Carbon County.
No human cases have been reported in Pennsylvania, but the disease, which is similar to West Nile virus, can infect humans.
While most people infected with the EEE virus show no signs of illness, 4% to 5% of those infected can develop flu-like symptoms, and the virus can cause death.
The disease is transmitted to people, mammals and birds through the bites of mosquitoes that have fed on infected birds.
To reduce the potential for contracting EEE, use insect repellent when outdoors and cover exposed skin, especially at dusk when mosquitoes are most active. Standing water around homes also should be removed because mosquitoes lay their eggs in water.
While EEE is not transmitted by direct contact, hunters always are advised to take precautions when field-dressing animals they harvest to avoid contracting potentially infectious diseases.
Guidelines for hunters: Hunters should:
* Wear gloves when field dressing, skinning, and/or processing game
* Clean knives thoroughly before and after using them for skinning, dressing and processing, or use different knives for each step, then clean them well afterward. Hand-wash first, then wash them in a dishwasher
* Thoroughly wash hands after field dressing, skinning, and processing game
* Cook wild game meat thoroughly to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees
While there is no evidence that people can become infected with EEE from preparing or eating infected meat, any risk of infection can be eliminated by proper handling and thorough cooking of meat before it is consumed.
Not a threat to deer or turkey populations: While EEE is known to have infected two wild turkeys and a wild deer in Pennsylvania this year, it is not considered a threat to Pennsylvania’s deer or turkey populations. Furthermore, mosquito numbers are dwindling with the onset of colder weather.
Still, those who encounter wild birds or mammals they believe might be infected with EEE or have died because of the virus are asked to contact their appropriate Game Commission region office.
Most birds with EEE do not show any symptoms and never become ill. However, EEE can cause illness and death in some bird species — most often pigeons, pheasants, turkeys and quail. Anyone finding dead birds of these species, or live birds with staggering gait, drooping wings, twisted neck or tremors, should please contact the nearest Game Commission region office so they can be tested for the EEE virus.
Deer infected with the virus might act confused, salivate, walk in circles or stumble, have a head tilt, appear to be blind or emaciated, have difficulty breathing or suffer seizures. Please report any dead deer or live deer with these signs to the Game Commission.
More information about EEE can be on the Game Commission’s website under wildlife-related diseases.