Is it safe to pick up feathers?

It is safe to pick up feathers where there have been no outbreaks of avian flu from the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus, including all of North America. Even for people living in areas where the virus is present, the chance of contracting the virus from a feather found on the ground is unlikely because these feathers were most likely shed by healthy birds.

In general, it’s a good idea to avoid handling dead birds. This would be especially important in outbreak areas. There are now confirmed reports that seven people in Azerbaijan became infected with avian flu after defeathering swans. They may have been exposed to large amounts of the virus through close contact with feathers of infected birds. 

If you must move a dead bird, use double plastic bags or disposable gloves and wash your hands with soap and hot water afterward. We also recommend washing your hands after handling feathers, eggshells, owl pellets, etc.

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