The West Nile Virus will not have an appreciable impact on wild turkey populations, bottom line.² said Bob Eriksen, National Wild Turkey Federation regional biologist for the New Jersey and New England east coast region.
West Nile is one of the most serious and fast spreading wildlife diseases in North America during the past three years. But, not surprisingly, the wild turkey continues to thrive despite the infectious plague. The first reported case of West Nile was detected in a New York zoo in 1999. Prior to that, the virus had been documented in Europe, Africa, parts of Asia and the Middle East.
Humans, animals and birds can be infected with the disease through the transmission of blood by mosquito bites. The most common cases in America have seen crows, blue jays and horses fall to the virus, urging wildlife biologists to test other species like the wild turkey.
Researchers at the Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory tested domestic turkey poults with doses of West Nile large enough to cause infection. ³All the poults developed the virus, but none showed severe symptoms or died from the disease,² said Eriksen Through the sequence of tests, biologists discovered that healthy wild turkeys in these pen conditions appeared unlikely to carry the virus. No transmission from the infected poults to the non-infected pouts occurred in the pen. Although it is unlikely that a human would become infected, some hunters wear plastic gloves when cleaning their wild turkey, as well as other game, to avoid the risk of contracting infections like West Nile or others.