Can hunters get West Nile Virus from eating infected game birds?

Some game birds have tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV). However, there is no evidence of human infection by consumption of properly cooked infected game. Hunters are likely at higher risk of infection by mosquito exposure, particularly in wetland environments. Protective measures should be taken to prevent mosquito exposure while hunting. There are extremely rare cases of laboratory workers contracting WNV through accidental exposure to infected tissues and blood. Hunters should wear gloves when dressing (cleaning) the birds to protect against accidental injury and exposure to blood. Consult with a physician immediately if an injury occurs to discuss the risk of WNV exposure. To prevent exposure to any infectious organisms carried by game species, hunters should wash hands with soap and water after handling carcasses and should thoroughly cook the meat.

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Photograph of female mosquito (Aedes japonicus)
2016 (approx.)

A female mosquito (Aedes japonicus) reared from larvae collected from the Kawaikoi Stream, Kauai.

Mosquito trap
May 16, 2016
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March 14, 2016

Culex species mosquito biting a human hand.

Mallard Duck swimming
May 16, 2010

Mallard Duck swimming

Image: USGS Scientist Set Mistnets for West Nile Virus Monitoring
February 8, 2005

USGS scientists capture and release wild birds while monitoring for West Nile.

Image: Northern Pintail Duck

A male northern pintail duck in Japan.

Image: Duck Examination

Researchers from the USGS National Wildlife Health Center examine a duck as part of part of efforts to identify, track, and prevent wildlife disease.

Image: Curlews Caught by Mist Nets

Curlews are very attentive parents and fly close to intruders and alarm call to distract them from their young broods. USGS scientists take advantage of this behavior by using a mist net to sweep birds out of the air when they approach. In June 2007, USGS scientists used this approach to tag 13 curlews with satellite transmitters at their southern breeding area in Alaska. They use satellite telemetry to track these birds, in order to map their migration routes and find the location of their nonbreeding areas.