May 25, 2012

In the Spotlight: Wildlife Health Bulletin from USGS National Wildlife Health Center

NWHC Plan for Avian Influenza Surveillance of Wild Birds
Wildlife Health Bulletin 2012-03

. . . With the exception of a few targeted efforts, the majority of the live bird and hunter harvested AI surveillance programs were discontinued in 2010. The National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) is continuing surveillance for H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza by focusing on testing sick and dead migratory birds, particularly ducks, geese and swans.

We believe that the systematic investigation of morbidity and mortality events in wild birds offers a cost-effective method for detection of H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza, as well as other emerging wild bird diseases, should they occur in migratory birds in the United States.

In an effort to maximize early detection of H5N1 HPAI, wildlife managers should be alert for wild bird morbidity and mortality events that meet any of the following criteria:
  1. Mortality events of any size involving waterfowl (ducks, geese and swans). North American waterfowl species known to be particularly susceptible to H5N1 HPAI include the wood duck, gadwall and swan species.
  2. Mortality events involving other North American species known to be susceptible to H5N1 HPAI, including eared grebes, dunlin, laughing and black-headed gulls and raptor groups such as falcons (kestrels and peregrine falcons).
  3. Mortality events involving bird species where it is estimated that the mortality exceeds 500 birds.
  4. Wild bird mortality events in close proximity to poultry operations, or mortality events associated with birds that have been imported from countries where H5N1 HPAI is known to occur, are other examples of events that would warrant investigation.
NWHC will also test for H5N1 HPAI in other species when the circumstances of disease outbreaks, including rapid mortality progression and pathologic findings, suggest that avian influenza may be a factor.

NWHC will continue submitting samples to the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories for mortality events exceeding 500 birds, and results will be reported through the HEDDS Web site (a link to HEDDS can also be found on the avian influenza page on the NWHC Web site).

A comprehensive list of USGS avian influenza publications resulting from national and international avian influenza research studies conducted at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Alaska Science Center, Western Ecological Research Center, and the National Wildlife Health Center is available at

More About Wildlife Health Bulletins

Published by the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, Wildlife Health Bulletins are distributed to natural resource/conservation agencies to provide and promote information exchange about significant wildlife health threats in their geographic region.

To view all issues, dating back to 2000, visit the NWHC website here.

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