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NWHC Avian Influenza News
The latest news about Avian Influenza.

  • Minnesota declares H5N2 emergency as spread continues
    Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton today declared an emergency over the widespread H5N2 avian influenza invasion of poultry farms, as the state's first outbreaks in chickens and backyard poultry were reported and Wisconsin and Iowa each announced a new turkey outbreak.By declaring a state of emergency, Dayton activated an emergency operations plan to support the state's response to the crisis, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. The state has logged 46 outbreaks in 16 counties, with more than 2.63 million birds either killed by the virus or destroyed to stop its spread, according to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health (MBAH).Dayton's action also calls for National Guard troops to be used as needed, but it wasn't immediately clear whether any would be called up, the story said. On Apr 20, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker authorized the Wisconsin National Guard to help respond to H5N2, after the state veterinarian asked that a few Guard members be made available.Large chicken farm hitMinnesota's first H5N2 outbreak on a commercial chicken farm was reported today at J & A Farms, an egg operation about 20 miles west of Detroit Lakes in the northwest, the Star Tribune reported. In addition, the MBAH reported an outbreak in a mixed backyard flock of 150 poultry in Pipestone County, near the state's southwestern corner, the county's first outbreak.Amon Baer, owner of the chicken farm near Detroit Lakes, told the newspaper he must destroy about 300,000 chickens after tests he ordered confirmed the presence of the virus. The story said the MBAH was aware of the test result and was in the process of confirming it. If confirmed, the outbreak will push the state's losses of turkeys and chickens close to 3 million.Baer said that dealing with the outbreak will be very costly, since it includes cleaning and disinfecting facilities in addition to culling all the birds, according to the story. He said federal assistance will cover some of his losses but not nearly all of them.Chickens are believed to be less susceptible than turkeys to H5N2, but a few chicken-farm outbreaks have been reported, including at least one each in Iowa and WisconsinThe MBAH's list of 46 Minnesota outbreaks does yet not include the chicken-farm event. In addition, one of 15 reported outbreaks in Kandiyohi County is not yet included in the total, because the number of affected birds has not yet been confirmed, MBAH spokeswoman Bethany Hahn said today.Another Wisconsin outbreakMeanwhile, Wisconsin officials today reported the state's sixth H5N2 outbreak, on a farm with 90,000 turkeys. It's the second outbreak in Barron County in the northwestern part of the state.In a statement, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection said the property was quarantined and the surviving birds will be destroyed, as neighboring poultry owners are notified.Wisconsin's first H5N2 outbreak surfaced in Jefferson County on Apr 13, and more outbreaks have occurred since then in Jefferson, Juneau, Chippewa, and Barron counties. In those counties, State Veterinarian Paul McGraw has banned movement of poultry to shows and swap meets, the statement noted.More Iowa turkeys affectedAlso, early this evening the Iowa Department of Agriculture (IDA) reported the state's third outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), involving a commercial turkey flock of 34,000 birds in Sac County in the western portion of the state.The farm is within the 10-kilometer monitoring zone of an H5N2 outbreak in Buena Vista Country that was reported on Apr 14, Iowa's first H5N2 outbreak. This is Iowa's third outbreak of HPAI in poultry. The second, reported earlier this week, involved 3.8 million chickens in Osceola County, adjacent to Minnesota.Preliminary tests indicate the outbreak was cause by an H5 strain, the IDA said in a news release, and samples have been sent to the US Department of Agriculture's National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, to confirm the exact strain.Scientists see long-term threatIn other developments, an article in Emerging Infectious Diseases suggests that H5N2 and other descendants of the H5N8 avian flu virus that arose in Asia in 2014 may be a long-term threat to poultry and wildlife in the Northern Hemisphere.The article, by three staff members of the US Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis., traces the emergence of H5N8 and its various progeny, including H5N2. It says the H5N8 virus apparently arose in China through reassortment of highly pathogenic H5N1 with various low-pathogenic viruses.The H5N8 virus was first detected in early 2014 in poultry and wild birds in South Korea and subsequently surfaced in Russia's wild waterfowl in September, the article notes. Since then the virus and various reassortants have been found in poultry and wild birds in Europe, Taiwan, Japan, Canada (British Columbia), and the western and central United States.Because wild waterfowl are natural hosts for avian flu viruses, and H5N8 seems to have little effect on them, "it seems probable that the virus was disseminated out of Russia into Europe, East Asia, and North America by migrating waterfowl during autumn 2014," the report says.It goes on to state, "Persistence of the original HPAI H5N8 virus for 1 year, the creation of multiple reassortant viruses that have maintained high pathogenicity in poultry, and adaptation of the virus to migrating waterfowl all indicate that these viruses could persist and spread in Northern Hemisphere waterfowl populations for an extended period."As the viruses persist, so does the threat of new genetic combinations that could arise in wild waterfowl and then spill over into poultry and other birds, the authors add. They ask, among other questions, whether these viruses might reassort with viruses from other species, such as swine, and whether such reassortant viruses might pose a risk to humans.They also observe that H5N8 and related strains may be a threat to wild raptors, as suggested by the infections detected in gyrfalcons and a few other species in North America.

  • Migrating birds may carry viral baggage
    Right now, a lethal strain of bird flu is wreaking havoc in the Lower 48. Its clear that migrating flocks have something to do with spreading the illness between farms and across continents but exactly what is still fuzzy.A remote spot in Southwest Alaska may hold some clues.VmPThe Izembek National Wildlife Refuge is pretty far off the road system unless you count the avian highways that run overhead.Izembek provides wonderful staging habitat for large numbers of migratory birds both from Eurasia and North America, says Andy Ramey, a geneticist with the U.S. Geological Survey. So theres potential for viruses to mix and be spread among birds at that location.Ramey and his colleagues recently published a new study on bird flu. To figure out how migration might be helping the virus get around, they visited the Izembek Refuge every fall when Emperor Geese and Northern Pintail ducks were passing through.Over four years, the researchers collected almost 3,000 swabs and fecal samples. None of them contained deadly flu, like the kind thats killing off poultry at farms in the Midwest.But Izembek did show an exact match for a harmless strain of bird flu thats only been found in China and South Korea.After some genetic tests, Ramey says, what we found was these viruses were sort of hybrids. That is, theyre essentially half-Eurasian and half-North American.These mixed-up viruses arent uncommon at the edge of the continent. Moving further inland, Ramey says youre more likely to find pure ones. And those are what researchers have been looking for to prove that migrations spreading bird flu.Theres been a lot of effort to find an apple in the basket of oranges, or an orange in the basket of apples, Ramey says.Finding a half-apple, half-orange virus in birds on both sides of the Pacific Ocean has never happened before, according to Hon Ip. Hes with the U.S. Geological Surveys National Wildlife Health Center in Wisconsin.One possible mechanism of how this happened is that a Eurasian virus was brought by wild birds into Alaska and a reassortant virus emerged from a co-infection there that now generated this combination virus which has a little bit of Eurasian genes and a little of North American genes, Ip says.From there, it mightve hitched a flight back to Asia with a migrating duck or goose. Or the hybrid virus could have spread out from Russia.Either way, its a long journey. But Ip and Ramey say there might be more versions of the bird flu out there taking a similar path.Going forward, Ramey wants to continue testing birds in the Izembek Refuge to find out what kind of viral baggage theyre bringing with them and what happens when it gets unpacked across borders.

  • Wisconsin reports H5N2 in turkeys, backyard poultry
    The H5N2 avian influenza virus is continuing to hopscotch through the Upper Midwest, as shown today by a report of Wisconsin's second and third outbreaks, in turkeys and backyard poultry at widely separated sites.The two new outbreaks, combined with previous ones listed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), boost the count of poultry outbreaks of H5N2 in the United States since December to 43, with most of them having occurred in the Midwest since early March. Twenty-two outbreaks have been in Minnesota, where more than 1.4 million turkeys have been lost to the virus and control efforts.In Wisconsin, the virus struck a farm with 126,000 turkeys in the northwestern county of Barron, the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection reported in a statement. It also hit a flock of 40 backyard birds in Juneau County in the west-central part of the state.Both sites are distant from Wisconsin's first outbreak, on a chicken farm in Jefferson County in the southeast, which was reported 3 days ago. That was the first commercial chicken farm to be hit by the virus, which has overwhelmingly favored turkey farms.Wisconsin authorities said their response to the new outbreaks will follow the standard script, including quarantines of the sites, culling of the surviving birds, and testing of poultry at other sites nearby. "Officials are investigating how the virus entered the flocks and may not have answers for some time," the statement said.Such answers have eluded investigators of all the H5N2 outbreaks so far. Officials say wild birds such as ducks can carry the virus and shed it in their feces without appearing sick, but scientists have not reported finding the virus in wild birds near any of the recent outbreak sites. The recent outbreaks have occurred in the Central and Mississippi flyways for migratory birds.H5N2 has surfaced in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, the Dakotas, and Montana since early March, as well as Minnesota and Wisconsin. Earlier in the winter it hit a few poultry flocks in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. A few detections in wild birds have been reported as well.Eastern poultry farmers worriedMeanwhile, poultry producers in the eastern United States are worried about the threat of an H5N2 invasion, according to an Associated Press (AP) report yesterday. It said the concern is that if the virus isn't already hiding somewhere in the Atlantic flyway, it could spread there when wild ducks fly south for the winter this fall or return north next spring.Government scientists speculate that when ducks and other migratory waterfowl from different flyways gather on northern breeding grounds this summer, they could expose each other to the H5N2 virus, and then carry it back south this fall along several migration routes, perhaps including the Atlantic flyway, the story said. The flyway includes several of the country's top poultry producing states, such as Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland.Hon Ip, PhD, MS, a microbiologist with the US Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis., told the AP that researchers believe the spread of the Eurasian H5N8 virus from Asia to Europe and North America last year resulted from the mingling of migratory birds in northeastern Russia last summer. The H5N2 virus is a product of reassortment between the Eurasian H5N8 strain and viruses from North American wild birds.One challenge scientists have in predicting how H5N2 may spread is that they don't have enough surveillance data from wild birds to prove they're the source yet, said Tom DeLiberto, DVM, PhD, assistant director of the USDA's National Wildlife Research Center, according to the AP. He said only 56 wild birds have tested positive for H5N8, H5N2, and a few similar viruses, and most were in the Pacific Northwest. Only four or five wild birds have tested positive in the Mississippi flyway, he said.H5N1 in Bhutan, H5N6 in Hong KongIn other developments, Bhutan today reported its first H5N1 avian flu outbreak since April 2013. The virus killed 16 of 37 birds in a backyard poultry flock in the western province of Thimphu, an agriculture official said in a report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) today.The outbreak was first noticed Apr 3, the report said. The surviving birds were destroyed to stop the virus, and no cases were seen in nearby flocks.Also today, Hong Kong officials reported that the H5N6 avian flu virus was found in a dead peregrine falcon, the first such detection in the territory. The carcass was found at a construction site, the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said in a press release.The H5N6 virus has caused a few poultry outbreaks in China, Vietnam, and Laos since it first cropped up in China in March 2014, and China has had three human cases, two of them fatal.

  • Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Virus Found in the Central United States
    To: Natural Resource/Conservation ManagersFrom: Dr. Jonathan Sleeman, Center Director, USGS National Wildlife Health CenterDate: March 27, 2015In response to recent detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses in wild birds and poultry inthe western United States and Canada, the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) continues to workclosely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture APHIS Wildlife Services, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, andstate wildlife agencies to implement enhanced mortality investigations and surveillance in wild birds (forbackground, see NWHC bulletins on Detection of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Viruses H5N2 and H5N8in Wild Birds of the United States and Detection of Novel Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Viruses in WildBirds).In early March 2015, HPAI H5N2 virus was confirmed at a commercial turkey facility in Minnesota, followedabout one week later by detections of the same virus in turkey facilities in Missouri and Arkansas. HPAI H5N2virus was subsequently confirmed in a mixed backyard poultry flock in Kansas. A multi-agency epidemiologicalinvestigation to characterize the spread of HPAI viruses across the United States is ongoing.It is important to note that although North American wild ducks have not been reported to exhibit signs of diseasewhen infected with HPAI, a Canada goose confirmed infected with HPAI exhibited neurologic signs. In addition,raptors also appear to be highly vulnerable to HPAI virus infection. For example, several captive falcons that wereapparently fed meat from HPAI-infected game became ill and died rapidly. Various other raptor species have alsodied following infection with HPAI, including two red-tailed hawks, a bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and Coopershawk. Testing of various tissues from these raptors has identified HPAI infection as causing or contributing totheir deaths.State and federal authorities with regulatory oversight of wildlife rehabilitators, wildlife exhibitors, and falconersmay wish to consider contacting permit holders to caution them against feeding wild game, especially wildwaterfowl, to their raptors and other captive wildlife. Authorities may also wish to encourage implementation ofbiosecurity practices to eliminate contact between captive and wild birds and to be alert for raptors and otheravian species showing neurologic signs of disease, as this may indicate potential infection with HPAI. Birdsshowing neurological signs or acute changes in behavior should be immediately isolated from other birds. Inaddition, wildlife biologists and agency staff should exercise careful field hygiene (e.g., hand washing anddisinfection of equipment and clothing) after visiting wetlands or when handling waterfowl or their tissues orparts.For an up-to-date summary of results from combined federal and state agency HPAI virus surveillance in wildbirds, view this multiple agency table: Wild bird HPAI cases in the U.S. For surveillance results for HPAI inpoultry and captive wild birds, view this USDA APHIS table: Update on Avian Influenza Findings.The NWHC is continuing to monitor for HPAI viruses by testing sick and dead birds. In an effort to maximizeearly detection of HPAI and to understand the spatial extent and species involvement of HPAI in North America,wildlife managers should remain vigilant for wild bird morbidity and mortality events and continue to contact usto discuss submission and testing of carcasses from events that meet the criteria described below. Avian influenzatesting may be performed in cases that fall outside these criteria if warranted based on field history or necropsy findings. Note that the following is not an all-inclusive list of cases accepted by NWHC (see NWHC SubmissionGuidelines).Submission criteria for HPAI diagnostics:1) Mortality events involving 5+ waterfowl (ducks, geese, or swans) or other water birds (loons, grebes,coots, shorebirds, or wading birds such as egrets, herons, or cranes).2) Mortality events involving raptors or other avian scavengers (ravens, crows, or gulls), particularly thoseobserved near locations with on-going water bird mortality.3) Mortality events involving gallinaceous birds such as wild turkeys, quail and sage grouse.4) Mortality events involving wild bird species in close proximity to facilities harboring domestic birds inwhich HPAI has been detected.5) Any mortality events involving wild bird species where estimated dead exceeds 500 birds.6) Wild raptors with neurologic/respiratory signs that die or are euthanized within 72 hours of admission to arehabilitation facility. Please also provide treatment records.7) Raptors held in captivity (i.e., falconer birds, rehabilitation facility) with sudden, unexplainedmorbidity/mortality after exposure to wild waterfowl or a known/suspect case of HPAI H5.General safety guidelines for handling wildlife:Hunters and biologists should follow these routine precautions when handling game and their tissues or parts: Do not handle or eat sick game. Prepare game in a well-ventilated area. Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves while handling and cleaning game. Wash hands thoroughly with soap or disinfectant, clean knives, equipment, and surfaces that come incontact with game. Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling animals. All game should be thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Additional guidance for hunters: Guidance for Hunters Protect Yourself and Your Birds from AvianInfluenzaField biologists should follow these precautions when handling sick or dead birds associated with a mortalityevent: Wear protective clothing including coveralls, rubber boots, and rubber or latex gloves that can bedisinfected or discarded. Minimize exposure to mucosal membranes by wearing protective eyewear and a particulate respirator(NIOSH N95 respirator/mask or better is recommended). Wash hands often with soap and disinfect work surfaces and equipment between sites. Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling animals. Decontaminate work areas and properly dispose of potentially infectious material including carcasses. Field Biologists working with wild birds in areas where H5 HPAIs have been detected shouldmonitor their health for any signs of fever and respiratory symptoms for one week following exposure tolive or dead wild birds. If symptoms develop please contact your health care provider.Disease Investigation Services:To request diagnostic services or report wildlife mortality, please contact the NWHC at 608-270-2480 or by emailat NWHC-epi@usgs.gov, and a field epidemiologist will be available to discuss the case. To report wildlifemortality events in Hawaii or Pacific Island territories, please contact the Honolulu Field Station at 808-792-9520or email Thierry Work at thierry_work@usgs.gov. Further information can be found athttp://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/services/.Wildlife Mortality Reporting and Diagnostic Submission Request FormIf you have any questions or concerns regarding the scientific and technical services the NWHC provides, please do nothesitate to contact NWHC Director Jonathan Sleeman at 608-270-2401, jsleeman@usgs.gov.To see past Wildlife Health Bulletins, click here. WILDLIFE HEALTH BULLETINS are distributed to natural resource/conservationagencies to provide and promote information exchange about significant wildlife health threats. If you would like to be added to orremoved from the mailing list for these bulletins, please contact Gail Mode Rogall at 608-270-2438 or e-mail: nwhc-outreach@usgs.gov

  • USGS Statement Regarding Avian Flu Found in Washington State Green-Winged Teal
    Some media are reporting that the Asian H5N1 strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza has now entered the United States. This is incorrect. The avian flu that was recently found in a green-winged teal in Washington state is a different strain and is not known to harm humans nor has it been found in domestic poultry. This Washington state strain incorporates genes from North American waterfowl-associated viruses. Unlike the Asian H5N1 strain that has been found in Asia, Europe, and Africa, this Washington state strain has only been found in wild waterfowl and has not been associated with human illness, nor has this new Washington state strain been found in domestic poultry


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