You may not be hearing much about avian influenza lately, but that doesn't mean it isn't getting a lot of attention. Since 2006, NWRC researchers have been analyzing fecal samples collected from wild migratory birds by WS wildlife disease biologists and their state partners for the surveillance of high pathogenicity avian influenza (HPAI) viruses. More than 101,400 wild bird fecal samples from across the continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Guam have been collected and analyzed. So far, none of the samples have tested positive for HPAI viruses; however, they have provided researchers with unique information on the prevalence of low pathogenicity avian influenza (LPAI) viruses. This is important information because LPAI viruses from wildlife can evolve into more serious HPAI viruses in poultry, swine, and humans.
The analysis of fecal samples has lead to more efficient sampling designs for monitoring wild birds for HPAI viruses and examining patterns of prevalence of LPAI viruses across the U.S.
Additional NWRC research has led to the development of the following new surveillance tools:
Water filtration device to collect and concentrate avian influenza viruses from ponds, lakes and streams
Faster, more sensitive laboratory tests for detecting and quantifying avian influenza viruses from wild bird and mammal samples
A blood test specifically designed to detect influenza A virus antibodies in wildlife species
NWRC scientists are also conducting laboratory experiments and field studies to better understand the ecology of LPAI viruses in wild birds and mammals and the potential routes of transmission of these viruses from wildlife to livestock operations and humans.
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