U.S. to increase wild bird avian flu tests

March 21, 2006
Bird flu

U.S. scientists are increasing the number of wild birds being tested for avian flu in an attempt to identify the disease as soon as it enters the nation.

Health officials say they expect the virus to be found in the United States this year, mostly likely carried by wild birds during the annual migration from Asia through Alaska, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

The great fear among scientists is that the virus could mutate and then spread easily between people, resulting in a devastating worldwide pandemic, The Post said.

U.S. wildlife experts have been monitoring wild migratory birds since the virus emerged in Asia in 1997, so far testing 12,000 in Alaska since 1998 and 4,000 traveling across the Atlantic since 2000. No birds have tested positive for the virus.

Current plans call for collecting as many as 100,000 samples from live and dead wild birds this year, along with 50,000 samples of water or feces from waterfowl habitats across the United States, The Post reported. Officials are also to conduct spot checks of birds that are killed by hunters or are being raised on farms.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

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