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Friday, October 28, 2005

H5N1 High Risk birds in Europe

An EU press release from last month suggests that member states should enhance surveillance for avian influenza viruses in wild birds this winter. States are requested to identify species of wild birds presenting higher risk based on--
a) origin and migratory flyways,
b) numbers in the EU, and
c) likelihood of contact with domestic poultry

A provisional list of higher risk birds included the following 15 species: White-fronted Goose, Bean Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Wigeon, Common Teal, Garganey, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck, Northern Lapwing, Ruff, Black-headed Gull, and Common Gull.

As many of these birds are occasional vagrants to Eastern North America from Europe, if H5N1 becomes endemic in the European population of any of these species, there is a remote chance that one of these birds could carry the virus to North America during fall migration.

However, if H5N1 is to be carried to North America by wild birds, it is still more likely to arrive via Alaska, where populations of many more Asian birds cross over to nest in Western Alaska, and where populations of a few North American species (such as Sandhill Crane) cross over into Siberia during the breeding season.

Additional monitoring of live and apparently healthy birds is needed, and though this provisional list of higher risk European birds is a good initial guide for testing, the announcement today of H5N1 in a heron in Romania underscores the need to test additional wetland birds for the virus.

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