Wildlife Health Bulletin #06-04
To: Natural Resource/Conservation Managers
From: Leslie Dierauf, Director, USGS National Wildlife Health Center
Title: Low-path Avian Flu H5N1 Found in Mallards in Maryland
Date: September 1, 2006
On September 1, the U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture announced that the low pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 has been detected in fecal samples from mallard ducks in Maryland. Testing has ruled out the possibility of this being the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain that has spread through birds in Asia, Europe and Africa.
Fecal samples were collected on August 2 from resident wild ducks in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland, as part of a research project conducted by scientists at Ohio State University. The fecal samples came from mallards that showed no signs of sickness, which also suggests that this is LPAI.
Because of the nature of the research project and because there was no sign of illness in the birds, the samples were not prioritized for testing. On August 24, 2006, USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa, received the samples. On August 31, 2006, NVSL tests indicated that nine samples were positive for the H5N1 avian influenza subtype. Genetic analysis of the virus was completed September 1; it appears that this virus is similar to low pathogenic strains found previously in North America.
Additional testing at NVSL will confirm the pathogenicity of the virus. These results are expected within two weeks and will be made public when completed. Wild birds are known to harbor many influenza viruses, and the finding of these viruses during routine testing is not unusual.
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For information about the federal government’s overall efforts related to avian influenza and human pandemic preparations, go to www.avianflu.gov.