MARSH LAKE -- Waterfowl hunters are being advised that portions of islands in Marsh Lake will be closed during the waterfowl season as a precaution to prevent the possible spread of Newcastle disease.
The islands are located in a nonmotorized zone of the lake, which is near Appleton in western Minnesota.
Newcastle disease had caused the die-off of hundreds of double-crested cormorants and ringbilled gulls on Marsh Lake earlier this summer.
There has been no recent outbreak of the disease in Marsh Lake, and the birds that use the islands for nesting have since migrated.
The Department of Natural Resources wants to be cautious and guard against the possibility that hunters could inadvertently carry the virus back to domestic poultry flocks, according to Dave Trauba, wildlife manager
He pointed out that the lake will remain open to waterfowl hunting. The decision to close portions of the islands should have a minimal effect. Only a small number of hunters usually use the islands, he added.
Although Newcastle disease rarely affects humans, it can occasionally cause conjunctivitis, a relatively mild inflammation of the inner eyelids, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
Because poultry can catch the disease from wild birds, the Board of Animal Health recommends that farm biosecurity measures be elevated to help ensure that virulent Newcastle disease does not enter domestic poultry flocks. The Board of Animal Health advises poultry producers to restrict movement of visitors and vehicles onto their premises, monitor poultry flocks for signs of illness and take steps to prevent wild birds from having contact with domestic birds.
If domestic birds show signs of illness, producers should contact their veterinarian or the Board of Animal Health at 320-231-5170.