JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - We're a couple of weeks into waterfowl season here in Arkansas but the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said they've been getting reports of sick geese and ducks for about a month now.
The waterfowl have Avian Cholera. According to AGFC, it's mostly affecting snow geese and speckle-bellied geese.
AGFC State Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Ballard spoke with Region 8 News via Skype Wednesday.
Dr. Ballard said so far, Avian Cholera has been detected in waterfowl in Greene, Lonoke, and Jefferson counties. They've received reports from other counties about sick birds, but are still investigating those reports.
"It's an outbreak that happens in waterfowl periodically," Dr. Ballard said. "Basically, they have an acute bacterial infection. It can result in some problems with their liver and their GI tract, so once they're affected, they can die very rapidly."
Dr. Ballard said the disease is common among waterfowl, but the drought we're experiencing in the Natural State could be increasing transmission rates.
"Typically what you have with Avian Cholera is a situation where you have one bird that has had the infection and survived and as a result, they carry the bacteria in their GI tract. When they shed it in their feces, it'll be transmitted to other birds," Dr. Ballard said. "In drought years, when birds are concentrated on smaller amounts of water, it can increase transmission."
She said it can also increase the ability to detect the disease since the birds are all in one place.
Dr. Ballard said there are key signs to look out for.
"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, they may not be moving normally or just sit there and be very lethargic," she said.
Though the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has received seven reports in the last four weeks, Dr. Ballard said it's difficult to anticipate if the reports will increase.
"We're certainly keeping a very close watch on what's happening. We may have received all the reports we're going to receive for the year," Dr. Ballard said. "Birds move on down through the flyway, they'll disperse a little bit or they may move into other places and have new outbreaks there. It's very hard to predict."
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission states if you see a dead bird or one you suspect is sick, it's best to handle it with gloves and wash your hands afterward. As always, never consume an animal you know is sick.
Dr. Ballard also advised poultry farmers to continue to practice their standard bio-security measures as the disease can infect chickens.
The Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission and the AGFC are coordinating on the issue.
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