States To Monitor Birds for Avian Flu Strain
Scientists in all 50 states and in U.S. territories in the Pacific will begin monitoring wild migratory birds for the presence of the H5N1 avian flu virus, AP/Indianapolis Star reports. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior are allocating $4 million to state and territorial agencies in order to collect samples from certain species of migratory birds that travel along four specific migratory bird routes. The federal government has budgeted $29 for monitoring of the H5N1 flu strain.
Scientists fear that a pandemic could occur if the virus -- which currently is acquired through direct contact with a contaminated bird -- mutates to be transmittable from human to human. Researchers will collect tissue samples from 75,000 to 100,000 birds, along with 50,000 samples of the water and ground with which birds come in contact.
Sample locations will vary based on habitat and weather conditions. According to AP/Star, "likely sites include national and state wildlife refugees and parks, city ponds and parks, and private lands where owners have given approval."
USDA Secretary Mike Johanns said, "This move to test thousands more wild birds throughout the country will help us to quickly identify, respond and control the virus if it arrives in the United States." Johanns added, "Because we cannot control wild birds, our best protection is an early warning system."
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said a coordinated state and federal monitoring effort "will be important this fall as birds now nesting in Alaska and Canada begin their migration south through the continental United States." Alaska began monitoring migratory birds in the spring (Heilprin, AP/Indianapolis Star, 8/10).