National Wildlife Health Center

...advancing wildlife and ecosystem health

Diagnosing and Controlling Wildlife Disease

Flying Snow Geese

The National Wildlife Health Center provides technical assistance and leadership for addressing health issues involving wildlife resources under Department of Interior steward ship and fosters partner ships with others to address wildlife health as a component of ecosystem health.

Dense aggregations of snow geese increase the risk of disease transmission

During the past quarter-century the emergence of new diseases afflicting humans and the re-emergence of previously conquered diseases have become an international focus for concern and action. Wildlife populations are also afflicted by new and re-emerging diseases and the National Wildlife Health Center, a component of the U.S. Geological Survey located in Madison, Wisconsin, was established to address the health and disease issues of free-ranging wildlife. 

Specialized biological containment facilities USGS to investigate highly infectious diseases affecting a broad spectrum of wildlife such as amphibians, eagles, sea turtles, sea otters, migratory birds, wolves, large mammals, and other species.

Investigations are carried out by a multi-disciplinary team of more than 70 scientists and support personnel who are specialists in such fields as wildlife ecology, epidemiology, veterinary medicine, pathology, virology, bacteriology, parasitology, chemistry, biometry, population ecology. The Center provides a multi-disciplinary, integrated program of disease diagnosis, field response, research, and training.

The Center international focal point for research, information, and scholarly exchange on scientific matters involving the study of wildlife health and disease.USGS is also working to better understand the ecological relationships between free-ranging wildlife, domestic animals, and public health concerns involving zoonotic diseases.

The gregarious habits of many wildlife species can enhance their susceptibility to catastrophic losses from diseases such as avian botulism and pesticide poisoning, and infectious diseases that can rapidly spread through a population. The mobility of wildlife enhances the potential for infectious disease to quickly spread to new locations and populations, Timely and accurate diagnosis of wildlife illness and mortality is critical to achieving effective disease control and prevention.

Center research focuses on understanding the ecology of disease in order to identify the most vulnerable linkages between affected species (the host), the disease agent, and environmental factors resulting in disease. This understanding is fundamental for developing effective disease prevention and control strategies. Center investigators also evaluate the impact of disease on wildlife population dynamics, model environmental factors influencing disease outbreaks, and explore the pathogenesis of disease agents in susceptibile hosts. Other Center research is directed towards developing enhances technology for disease detection and diagnosis and developing biologics to protect animals against infection.


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Page Last Modified: Jun 20, 2018