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Genetic Analyses of Influenza in Wild Birds Can Improve Avian Flu Surveillance Programs

Genetic analyses of avian influenza in wild birds can help pinpoint likely carrier species and geographic hot spots where Eurasian viruses would be most likely to enter North America, according to new U.S. Geological Survey research.

Persistence of the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 (HPAI H5N1) virus in Eurasia and Africa, and concerns that the virus might be transported among continents by migratory birds has resulted in global surveillance programs. In the United States, state and federal agencies tested more than 326,000 wild bird samples from across the country from 2005 to 2008.

The new work by USGS has nationwide importance because it offers a method for avian influenza surveillance programs to target their efforts for the right species and in the best locations.

In the study, USGS scientists conducted the first-ever survey of avian influenza gene variation in a single host species -- the northern pintail -- at each end of the bird's migratory flyway in North America: Alaska and California. These birds migrate between North America and Eurasia and in Japan and China have been known to occur in outbreak areas of HPAI H5N1.
 
 

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