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30 August 2005 at 2:15 pm #3237Martin WParticipant
from Matt Hogan, Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
Most of us have read or heard media and other accounts regarding the spread of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, referred to as H5N1. To date, this virulent form of avian influenza has not been detected in either wild or domestic birds or in humans, in North America. In fact, between 1998 and 2004 more than 12,000 wild bird samples from Alaska have been analyzed, and no evidence of this virus has been discovered.
We know that birds migrating from Asia to Alaska could potentially carry the H5N1 virus. However, based upon recent and ongoing surveillance, knowledge of the scope of the disease in Asia, and the projected movement of birds from affected areas, it is unlikely that H5N1 will be carried by birds migrating from Asia to North America this fall or winter.
The Service, along with USGS, State and university partners, is continuing surveillance of wild birds in Alaska for the H5N1 virus, and we are working with an interagency group of scientists, public health and policy officials to design an intensified effort for surveillance and early detection of this virus in wild birds. This effort will help ensure that we are in position to support prompt detection and response activities, and take appropriate measures to conserve bird populations and protect the safety of our employees, partners and the public.
The USGS National Wildlife Health Center, in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has produced Wildlife Health Bulletin 05-03, entitled Interim Guidelines for the Protection of Persons Handling Wild Birds With Reference to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1. The guidelines are attached. While reiterating that the H5N1 virus has not been detected in North America, this occasion reminds us of the importance of sensible safety practices. Therefore, all service employees and agents (including contractors and volunteers) are expected to adhere to this guidance in the handling of wild birds.
As the situation and information with regard to the H5N1 virus changes, these guidelines may be updated.
For additional information and references on avian influenza and H5N1, visit the National Wildlife Health Center Avian Influenza web page at http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/research/avian_influenza/avian_influenza.html.
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