Hygiene Protocols for the Prevention and Control of Diseases (Particularly Beak and Feather Disease) in Australian Birds

Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006

11. Handling and Disposal Procedures for Samples and Dead Birds.

The disposal of bird carcases and samples must at all times avoid contaminating of the environment.

Unopened birds are accepted by Waste Recycling Companies in each State with the following acceptance criteria:

  • The bodies must be free of human pathogens;
  • The bodies must be intact or death must have resulted from acute trauma – e.g. being hit by a vehicle;
  • The bodies must be contained in leak-proof, opaque plastic bags free of any staining or residues on the outer surfaces;
  • The bodies must not be compacted before or during transport;
  • If a load is odorous on arrival at a Waste and Recycling Centre it will be turned away. Acceptance is subject to the usual conditions applying to Special Wastes; and
  • Veterinary wastes arising from surgical procedures, clinical trials and research are regarded as Medical Waste and are not accepted.

In the veterinary sense, Medical Waste is defined as waste consisting of:

  • a needle, syringe with needle, surgical instrument or other article that is discarded in the course of veterinary practice or research and has a sharp edge or point capable of inflicting a penetrating injury on a person who comes into contact with it; or
  • a vessel, bag or tube containing a liquid body substance; or
  • an animal carcass discarded in the course of veterinary practice or research; or
  • a specimen or culture discarded in the course of veterinary practice or research and any material that has come into contact with such a specimen or culture; or
  • any other article or matter that is discarded in the course of veterinary practice or research and that poses a significant risk to the health of a person who comes into contact with it.

Medical waste should be stored:

  • in a manner that is not offensive and that minimises the threat to health, safety or the environment.
  • in containers in a secure location.
  • in an area that can be easily and immediately cleaned and disinfected in case of accidental spillage.

Any waste mixed with medical waste is medical waste.

Sharps such as needles, syringes with needles and surgical instruments are to be placed into a suitable container that:

  • is puncture-resistant, leak-proof, shatter-proof and able to withstand heavy handling
  • displays the universal biohazard label and has a label clearly indicating the nature of the contents
  • has an opening which is accessible, safe to use, and designed so that it is obvious when the container is full
  • is sealed when full or ready for disposal
  • can be handled without danger of the contents spilling or falling out.

All medical waste other than sharps are to be placed in a clearly labeled heavy duty opaque plastic bag which displays the universal biohazard label. Bags intended for domestic use are unsuitable for this waste. The bags should be tied to prevent leakage or expulsion of solid or liquid wastes during storage, handling or transport and ensure they will not be subject to compaction by any compacting device.

Under no circumstances should an opened bird’s carcase, parts or secretions, whether from a captive or wild bird, be disposed of in any way other than as Medical Waste.

Body Disposal for Captive Populations of Threatened Species

A necropsy should always be performed on any birds that die. It is imperative that mortalities be forwarded to an avian veterinarian as soon as possible, so that the cause of death can be determined. The avian veterinarian should use the normal method of the veterinary practice for disposal of medical wastes arising from avian necropsies.

Personnel in recovery plans that do not have access to an avian veterinarian should perform a necropsy according to the  Full Necropsy Protocol (PDF - 39 KB), and forward a complete range of tissue specimens to a laboratory in the State. The carcase, together with disposable gloves and mask and any materials such as plastic ware and swabs should be placed in a wet-strength plastic bag which is then placed in a clearly labeled heavy duty opaque plastic bag displaying the universal biohazard label, for disposal as medical waste by a municipal contractor. Any sharps container must be disposed of similarly.

In either case, the state government wildlife authority, DEH and the Australian Wildlife Health Network (AWHN) should be notified:

  • of the death;
  • that specimens have been collected and forwarded to a laboratory; and
  • of all laboratory results.

Body Disposal for Wild populations

Provided appropriate equipment is available ( Equipment Lists (PDF - 37 KB)) mortalities should be necropsied according to the protocol outlined in the  Full Necropsy Protocol (PDF - 39 KB). Samples should be forwarded as above and State Government Parks Authority, DEH and the AWHN should be notified as above.

If equipment is not available, wet the plumage with a 1% detergent solution, place the carcase in two sealable plastic bags, and freeze to at least -20°C. Identify the carcase with a number, its sex, whether adult, subadult, young or neonate, the date of collection and the date of freezing, what findings were made with skin and plumage inspection, and what signs were observed prior to death (if the bird was not found dead). Forward the carcase to the state governmental laboratory for a necropsy, where it will be disposed of according to the Laboratory’s procedures. Private laboratories no longer offer a necropsy service.

Place carcases necropsied in the field, together with disposable gloves and mask and any materials such as plastic ware and swabs, into a plastic bag which is then placed in a clearly labelled heavy duty opaque plastic bag displaying the universal biohazard label, for disposal as medical waste by a municipal contractor. Any sharps container must be disposed of similarly.

Take care to avoid contaminating the environment with material from the carcase. Immediately clean any contamination and disinfect with 2% Virkon S solution. Remember that dirt, gravel and similar material cannot be disinfected, and so if the contamination is minor, attempt to clean up the area where the contamination occurred and place it into the disposal bag with the carcase.