July 30, 2010

In the Spotlight – Wild Bird Surveillance Programs for Avian Influenza

The United States and Canada both have national programs for surveying wild birds for avian influenza and make summary surveillance reports available to the general public online.

Canada's Inter Agency Wild
Bird Influenza Survey

The results from the Canada's Inter Agency Wild Bird Influenza Survey are available on the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Center (CCWHC) website.

“In 2005, Canada initiated a national inter-agency survey for influenza A viruses in healthy live wild ducks. ...The Survey objectives were to identify strains of influenza viruses present in Canada's wild bird reservoir, to acquire information needed to assess the bio-security of Canada's poultry industry, and to monitor viral genes of concern to human and animal health.

... From 2006 to 2009, the wild bird influenza survey was continued, with both live bird and dead bird components. The objective of the survey based on birds found dead was vigilance for highly pathogenic virus strains and careful assessment regarding whether or not influenza viruses had caused the death of the birds. The objectives of the live bird survey were to monitor year-to-year variation in viruses present in the wild duck population, to sample in the eastern Canadian arctic to which trans-Atlantic migrant birds might carry the virus from European or African wintering grounds, to sample species that migrate seasonally deeply into Central and South America, and to sample additional species of aquatic birds to better understand the wildlife reservoirs of influenza A viruses”. [Source: CCWHC Avian Influenza Virus Background]

The reports from these surveys are available online dating back to 2006. For the majority of the reports, the details offered include a map of sample collection locations, and a table of sampling totals by the number of live/dead birds tested in each region and by the number of positive test results for H5/N7 strains as well as matrix positive.

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Early Detection Data System

The national avian influenza surveillance system for the United States is HEDDS, the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) Early Detection Data System. HEDDS was created to meet the goal of the U.S. Interagency Strategic Plan [pdf] to develop a national database that could contain HPAI data and be used by all agencies, organizations, and policy makers. Currently, the system holds data from the sampling efforts by the Dept. of Interior and the Dept. of Agriculture. The USGS National Wildlife Health Center manages the avian influenza data submitted to HEDDS. Technical support to the system is provided by the NBII Wildlife Disease Information Node (WDIN).

From the HEDDS website, visitors can see the number and frequency at which samples are contributed by the system, and a map that shows the number of samples collected in each state. In addition, there is a table summarizing the number of birds test by surveillance strategies (e.g. surveillance of live or dead birds, or surveillance through the investigation of morbidity and mortality events). A description of all five strategies is available in the Interagency Plan [pdf]. Tables and maps from past sampling efforts are available dating back to 2005.

For those who are interested in staying up to date on the surveillance efforts, sign up for HEDDS Email Updates and receive notification when new information has been added to the HEDDS web site. The email notification will include surveillance news and revisions to total birds tested. For RSS users who want an email alternative, subscribe to the HEDDS RSS Feed. Subscription information can be found here.

Other AI Surveillance Systems? What did we miss?

Are there other avian influenza surveillance systems that make reports of their sampling efforts available online to the public ? Are there other web-based wildlife disease surveillance systems we should know about? If so, please pass along the information to us at wdin@usgs.gov and we will share it with your fellow Digest readers.