National Wildlife Health Center

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Surveillance Of Wild Birds For Avian Influenza In The Pacific



The objective of the national AI surveillance strategy is early detection of the presence of the virus in wild migratory birds. The pacific islands and Hawaii play an imporant role because many islands are close to areas in Asia where the virus (H5N1) is currently present and causing human fatalities. For example, Palau, a freely associated state, is only 24 h away from Indonesia by boat. Furthermore, a majority of the human cases of AI have been due to close contact with infected poultry. Because backyard poultry play an important role in the economy and culture of many pacific islands, the opportunities for contact between potentially infected birds and humans in the pacific islands are much greater than other places in the US.  Click here to download the Pacific Islands AI field surveillance report (PDF).
Map of surveillance locations for wild birds in the Pacific Islands. NWHI
A picture of an interagency collaboration


Because of limited capacity, AI surveillance was an interagency collaboration between the Department of Interior (DOI-US Fish & Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey), US Department of Agriculture (USDA Hawaii and Guam), State of Hawaii Department of Land & Natural Resources, American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife, and the Palau Conservation Society. In 2006, surveillance was carried out in Hawaii, American Samoa, Marshall Islands, Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Palau. This involved an area larger than the United states.


The National Plan for Avian Influenza Surveillance in Wild Birds stipulated 5 strategies including 1) investigation of avian mortality/morbidity, 2) Wild bird surveillance, 3) Environmental sampling, 4) surveillance of hunter killed birds, and 5) monitoring of sentinel birds. Because there is little to no waterfowl hunting in the Pacific islands, and because no capacity exists to set up and implement sentinel flocks, the 2006 Pacific Islands AI surveillance plan (PDF) opted to carry out strategies 1-3.


Because the methods and protocols for sample collection for DOI and USDA were very different, biologists from all the targeted surveillance areas (see map above) were convened in Honolulu and trained on protocols, personal protective equipment, sample collection, data collection, and shipment. Training was also done on site in Palau and American Samoa. Field collections efforts were led by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the USDA, American Samoa DMWR or Palau Conservation Society. The USGS was in charge of liaisons between the field and and the laboratory and served as a central data repository.


Over 4000 specimens were collected from waterfowl, shorebirds, and other species from throughout the Pacific. No highly pathogenic avian influenza was detected during 2006 and 2007. Plans are underway to prepare for the 2007-2008 season.

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Page Last Modified: Jun 20, 2018